8 Traits of Highly Effective Influencers

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The cult of personality has so pervaded all aspects of our lives. From Obama to Tom Cruise to Derek Jeter and even web celebrities. It pervades our culture thoroughly and it’s not entirely clear why.

In most cases, we don’t know anything about the objects of our affection aside from their names and their public work. Strangely, it’s the stuff that happens outside of the public eye that really makes people who they are validating what has been said, that character is what we are when no one is looking.

This mentality is frightening because it is the product of “no thought” following of someone. Whether you believe in the concept of “personal brand”, or you dismiss it outright, the desire to latch onto a recognized individual plays out everyday.

Being a celebrity is a dead end road. Celebrities simply wow people with imagery and public facing acts. Being an influencer involves changing games and lives and moving needles.

“This cult of personality is frightening in itself because it is the product of a “no thought” following of someone.”

Several years ago, I posed the question, ” How much do people talk about you?” In asking the question, I suggested that a person has arrived if they don’t even have to go to an event and still are name dropped in conversation.

My next question, rhetorically, is to find the value add of that conversation? There’s a fine line between being mentioned at a conference in the context of influence and knowledge, and simply being name-dropped just for the effect of, “Wow you know that person?!”

To be an influencer, you’re going to have to balance that self brand, personal marketing for the sake of being known with providing absolute, unquestioned value to the greater community. Carrying the mantle of an influencer means being a celebrity for the community. It means always giving of yourself so that the rest of the crowd benefits. It’s almost self-sacrificial, flying in the face of personal brand or celebrity.

To rip off the gist of the great John C. Maxwell‘s great series of books on leadership, there are ten traits of highly effective influencers. These traits do not include getting included on lists published by obscure bloggers, or gaining high numbers of “friends” on the social networks. Alone, these effects are not bad, but they tend to be self serving effects of minor celebrity and do not constitute “influence”.

Ride with me through this article. If you can last, then I hope you come out better on the other side. Share it with your own audience, churches, schools, social networks or office mates. The principles here transcend venue. In other words, an influencer in social media is not different, on principle, than an influencer in government.

Published by

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

15 thoughts on “8 Traits of Highly Effective Influencers”

  1. I doesn’t take much skill/ talent/ ability to be a celebrity any more- but to be an influencer, or to actually make an impact on the people around you takes much more skill and finesse.
    I do a few things to try to keep my own little brand identity- I use the same “handle” or screen name on every site i use, and I try to use the same profile picture, and recently I was recognised at a local blog meetup- and I feel that there is value in doing all these things- but I am working on becoming more of an influencer moving forward.
    At some point I decided I’d rather be the guy with something valuable to add to the community, than the guy with 3 million hits on a youtube video where I wreck a 4-wheeler.

  2. Arron,

    It is a rare where I find a philosophy that closely mirrors mine. I see that some of traits mentioned are natural for me and a few I have to work on.

    I congratulate you on a very well written blog (article); one that I’ll be proud to refer to my kindred friends.

    Ed

  3. Cool. Thanks for the insight. “It’s been said, even, that character is what we are when no one is looking.” – outrageous but true.

  4. Aaron,

    Fantastic stuff. Timeless and timely. I’ll add a link on my blog, because I think folks in my biz, local television news, could use a refresher on engaging people. We’ve been taught for so long (entire careers for some) that we do our thing, and the audience will always be there. It’s not anymore. You need, as you suggest, to offer something to people.

    Thanks again for sharing your insight.

    Mark

  5. I made it through the whole article and it was very informative. I am pretty energized by it and look forward to your keynote at IZEAFest. You really took your time and crafted a well thought out article with some great points. I have yet to read Dale Carnegie’s book, I started once but didn’t get too far, I think it is time to try again.

  6. This is a very insightful paragraph:

    “To be an influencer, you’re going to have to balance that self brand, personal marketing for the sake of being known with providing absolute, unquestioned value to the greater community. Carrying the mantle of an influencer means being a celebrity for the community. It means always giving of yourself so that the rest of the crowd benefits. It’s almost self-sacrificial, flying in the face of personal brand or celebrity.”

  7. This phenomenon is due to human biology and social habits, every day our actions and thoughts are derived from others around and before us. Intellectuals are followers of previous intellectuals and commoners are followers of popular figures. However, one cannot say that we are brainless, but rather we belong to a massive network making up an overall societal “mind”. We never truly die, we each have significant effects on society that ripple and cascade endlessly.

  8. Well done! I have been writing “traditionally” for some time and just recently joined the social media world. It can get a bit disheartening for those new to the scene to feel that they are competing with someone with 3,000 followers. Thank you for helping put all of this into perspective in a sound, academic article. I will certainly be sharing this with others.

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