8 Traits of Highly Effective Influencers

This is a 10 page article. Be sure not to miss the rest of the story!

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.

Who Said Personal Brand Isn't Important?

Personal Brand. Is it important or is it not? Some say it is super valuable and is the doorway to other opportunities. Still others say that personal brand is a waste of time and a distraction from the core mission of a company. Which of these sentiments seem most important to you?

The United States Olympic Committee took a black eye today when pictures of a 14-time gold medal winner smoking a bong emerged on the internet.

Speedo, concerned about fallout from recent photos of a spokesman smoking marijuana at a college house party, considered yanking his endorsement contract.

Michael Phelps, America’s swimming legend, who has secured a record 14 gold medals is in danger of losing endorsement contracts and be banned from competing in the 2012 London Olympics.
81972649RB208_Olympics_Day_If you are thinking about this the same way I am, you recognize that the most damaging sentiment to the greater public is the third. Sure, Speedo investors might be concerned about a hit to the reputation of the Speedo gear, but probably not. I mean, really? The USOC is used to being rocked by scandal, so that brand is already pretty worthless.

But Mike Phelps? He’s an icon. He makes girls swoon and guys try to be like him. He’s a legend in his own time, possibly eclipsing Lance Armstrong or even Tiger Woods.

And he has a history of getting in trouble with substance abuse. Four years ago, at the illegal drinking age of 19, he was arrested for DUI. He made mends, so we thought, and did good by the community by making frequent visits to high schools and preaching the sins of alcohol abuse. He was reformed and America wanted to buy into his brand. His personal brand.

Then the news of him being a 23 year old and doing the college party scene, hitting the booze hard and then happily accepting a bong in, what some observers called, a well-practiced hit. (Click the link to see the incriminating photo which, Phelps now admits is real).

Coming full circle, I respectfully submit, that personal brand might be one of the most important aspects to any business. How you are perceived directly impacts your company. Just as my friendship with Shashi, creates positive karma for Network Solutions, or President Obama’s personal brand has transformed Democratic politics.

Personal brand is not dead. It is very much alive.

Photo Credit: [MarcoPako via Flickr]

SEO and Personal Brand is not dead. If you innovate.

Two very close friends of mine have made blanket statements stating that SEO is Dead and that, in essence, so is personal brand.

Though I understand the sentiment expressed in both posts, it is still misinformation and very debunk-able. Micah Baldwin, who thinks SEO is dead, also happens to be my boss at Lijit. Geoff Livingston, happens to be my roommate. So I tread lightly in both cases.

Let’s go back to prohibition where, unlike today, companies were not simply told to adjust how they do things or risk a failure – they were told that they could not do their business.

Big beer companies like Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch were faced with traumatic decisions that demanded them to adjust to a changed landscape. Much like the SEO business and Personal Brand in a down economy, people can either fail or adapt.

In the case of Yuengling, they brewed near-beers (beers under the minimum alcohol by volume (ABV) levels that would be considered non-alcoholic beer today) and provided ingredients and instructions for mail-order home brews. When prohibition was repealed by the 24th Amendment, these companies who adapted were positioned best to move in and dominate the landscape.

While personal brand can certainly be a bugaboo and is certainly not something that anyone should assume will be an easy coat-tail ride, personal brand does not guarantee anything.

However, the reputation that someone with personal brand can leverage is extremely important. That ability to negotiate, converse, discuss and work on deals on an individual level is something that can position a person to rebound fairly quickly in a down economy.

As in any market, there are corrections. Maybe the personal branding “market” or the SEO industry as it is today is a little hyperinflated. A correction is certainly in order. However, that correction brings out the best in those areas and those who survive are positioned best at the end.

I will agree with Geoff that having intrinsic value to backup personal brand is extremely important for survival. Talkers are important though, as they are the ideas people. Eliminating talkers is a sure fire way to squelch innovation during a down economy – exactly the wrong thing to do.

Intrinsically, there is still a high premium on personal brand. Likewise, SEO is very important for marketing. In both cases, these things probably need a correction to procure a more pure form of business though. Those who adapt will survive. Those who do not and continue to try to live life as normal… Well, see ya later, alligator.