Mine’s Bigger . . . Than Yours

The Impotence of Influence

I’d love you forever, if you’d take a moment and vote for my session at SXSW.  Vote here to see ‘The Impotence of Influence.  Mine’s Bigger Than Yours’ at the 2013 SXSW Interactive Conference.  Crystal and I owe you a cocktail.  She’s buying. . . 

What is the Impotence of Influence?

Influence is a funny and fickle thing.  It’s about building relationships, starting the conversation, and yet it’s a contest.  It shouldn’t be really, but without competition we would never have anything to strive for or to measure against.  I call this the impotence of influence.

These are the kind of things often discussed among my group of friends usually with cocktails and sometimes a cigar in hand.  We shoot the breeze, argue and debate amongst ourselves.  It’s truly when most forward thinking conversations happen at least for me anyway.  And lately, when I’ve had the occasion my thoughts gravitate to influence.  Why are we doing what we are doing, and what motivates me to write and manage this blog everyday?  Is it for the money, the opportunity, or something more.  And is that something influence?

Onion as a Metaphor for Building Trust and Influence

A couple years ago, I sat in Chris Brogan and Julian Smith‘s session at SXSW.  They had recently published their book, Trust Agents.  Relationships and influence are built purely on trust.  By giving yourself and your insights purely and without fail, you are building a relationship, a collective.  Chris described influence and relationships like an onion.  While gaining trust among that onion layer and group of individuals, there is always another layer to reach.  And another layer to peel back.  One layer where you as the influencer, the individual start at the beginning.  You peel and navigate each layer over and over and over again until you reach the center.

I don’t think I really understood what Chris was really saying until not too long ago, but is stuck with me.  Influence is not stagnate.  It is ever-changing and evolving like its audience and advancing like the technology we use to enhance our lives every day.  In theory you will never reach the center of that onion.  These relationships and building trust takes time and enormous amounts of effort, and most of us are not patient enough to wait so we work towards gaming the system.  We try to speed through those layers, and we use methods to increase our Klout score and give our influence the lift we believe it deserves.  Sometimes we’ve put in the effort truly, but most times we have not.  While I believe that even Mother Theresa had selfish intentions, there are those that do believe they can make a difference and with trust build a community through engagement and conversation.  I like to think I’m one of them, but it’s hard to move people past the skepticism and cynicalness.  Doing so is where the real influence lies.

The truth of the matter is that there’s always someone who’s bigger, better, higher or has a louder voice.  This includes online influence tools and measurement like Klout, Empire Avenue, and Peer Index. That same guy (or gal) probably has a bigger house, nicer car, and a better tasting latte.  For them it is a contest and competition.  What those scores don’t tell you is the behind the scenes reality.  Often times those same people who have the big house and nice car have a mortgage and car payment to match.  They’re leveraged up to their eyeballs.  Their influence requires an expected level of performance, cash, and stress.

Influence Expert I am Not

I don’t believe I’m an expert on influence.  I’m just someone who’s been there and is continuing their journey building, growing, and evolving along the way.    And that’s pretty much what Crystal Miller and I want to discuss during our 2013 SXSW Interactive session titled, “The Impotence of Influence.  Mine’s Bigger Than Yours.”

Over the course of the next few months, Crystal and I will be conducting research on influence.  During our session at SXSW we will release the results of our influence study.  This data could very well support or foil our point of view.  Just like building an online community based on trust.  That’s work especially since influence is not a science.  Speaking of work, chances are you’ve probably read some of Crystal’s insights into influence here.  It’s quite the collection.

Vote for Our Session at SXSW 2013 Interactive

But to further our discussion, Crystal and I need your help.  To get to SXSW in 2013, we have to have people “like” our session, and by people that means you.  Between August 13 through the 31st, SXSW is accepting votes for people’s favorite panels to be part of the upcoming SXSW.  It takes less than 30 seconds.  You can vote here and view our session’s full description.  Your vote helps us increase our chances to present our session at SXSW.

Do you believe influence is important online or can the system be gamed?  I’d appreciate your comments below.  


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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell is the founder of Workology, a digital resource that reaches more than a half million HR and workplace leaders each month and host of the Workology Podcast. Jessica lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, daughter, and an assortment of furry family members.


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