One of the things that I truly love about blogging and social media in general is the ability to create great content, build an audience and become an authority.
There is a certain pride that comes along with all that hard work…and the recognition that follows when your ship finally comes in.
Now, I don’t desire to become an authority so I can lord it over a bunch of people. I like being an authority because I like to teach people how to succeed at things like SEO, web analytics and entrepreneurship.
That’s what truly makes influence so attractive.
But even after all that hard work, you can still lose influence. Things happen in the business world that negatively impacts it.
For instance, you get so busy, you can’t maintain your blog; someone takes a shot at you and writes an inflammatory post; or everyone is running away from you to some rising star.
We’ve all felt it…those times when you are not as popular as you once were – the times when you are not the “go-to” guy or girl anymore.
Naturally, you want to change that because losing influence equals losing clients, jobs and money. So, what do you do when that happens?
Let me show you:
How do you know you are losing influence online?
The first thing you need to determine is if and how you are losing influence. Just because you feel like you are losing influence doesn’t mean you actually are.
There are two ways of measuring influence online: short-term and long-term. Let’s look at the short-term first.
Here are some common ways to measure short-term influence:
- Klout – People either love Klout or hate it. Those who hate it see it as a meaningless way to measure online influence, one that is based on algorithms that can be gamed and don’t reflect real-world influence. Alex Braunstein poured significant time and energy into proving the Klout influence metric is flawed. Rohn Jay Miller encourages you to Delete Your Klout Profile Now! But if you decide to use Klout to determine how to gain influence online, I suggest you read Ben Straley’s Losing Klout: Four Questions About Third-Party Influence. His four questions will help you pinpoint the correct influencers you need to engage if you want to raise your influence online. Even if you hate Klout, it may be hard to ignore. Retailers are starting to use it as a means to reward customers with high Klout scores. The Palms Casino resort in Las Vegas checked the Klout scores of guests at check-in, giving upgrades to those with high scores. It now has the highest Klout score among its peers. So, are you losing Klout?
- Social signals – How many followers do you have on major social sites? How many new followers are you getting every week? How many retweets or likes is your content getting? Then ask this question about people in the same industry, people who you might consider competitors. Compare yourself in each category to gauge whether you are losing or gaining influence. Here are some tools to use:
- PeerIndex, which is a lot like Klout, gives you an overall score based upon three subsets: Authority, Audience and Activity.
- Twitalyzer looks specifically at Twitter and scores you on Engagement, Impact, Reach, Velocity and a few other metrics.
- Crowdbooster also uses Twitter to gauge your online influence by measuring the growth of your followers and who your top retweeters are. And the scatter plot graph is really cool too: it lets you see your most engaging tweets.
Even though it may seem obvious, I should probably point out why I consider the above short-term indicators. They can change dramatically in a short period of time. As Seth Godin put it, they twitch.
Besides, as a marketing professional you should be looking at the performance of your social media activities on a daily basis. The following long-term metrics, however, you may need only to look at on a weekly basis:
- Search rankings – If you are an SEO, then you will naturally think about search rankings as a way to measure your online influence. Back in the old days, position was a matter of creating quality content. These days, though, search position is affected by social signals and can be a real-time means to measure your influence online. The more quality posts you can write that get a decent share on the social web, the more influence you have in search. Keep in mind that changes to search position, unless impacted by a recent algorithm update, don’t change dramatically from day to day. It can be weeks or months before you see real change in these positions.
- Blog engagement – Another indicator that you are losing influence deals with your blog engagement. This is where you look at basic metrics like hits, page views, referrer sources, etc. Are they declining? What about comments? Are you getting fewer? Are you getting fewer links back to your blog posts? Even take into consideration the number of emails you get in your inbox. Fewer emails could mean that people are no longer looking to you for advice.
- Google Trends – Finally, you could use Google Trends to get a grip on your online influence. In my experience, this is a metric that’s tough to use for individual influence unless you are a celebrity. Still, it’s helpful to search for long-tail keywords geared toward your industry. For example, as an SEO, you could search “Penguin recovery tips” to see how you are trending for that keyword.
It’s probably helpful at this point to suggest that you try a handful of different social and search metric plug-and-play tools. Use your favorites.
Once you’ve collected all this data into a spreadsheet, your next step is to consider why you are losing influence.
In some ways it could be that you’re not blogging as frequently because you are doing more speaking engagements. If that was the case, then you could probably just pick back up the pace with the blogging. You have to consider whether it’s worth it, however, given what you are gaining from your speaking gigs.
These are all costs you have to weigh. So, let’s look at some tactics to get your influence back.
Write, write and write some more
You can directly influence your online influence by the sheer amount of writing you do. If you write only two days a week, jump that up to five days a week and your influence will go up. Guest blog, and your influence will again continue to increase. This increase in writing will also help you cast a wider net for the searchers, of which there are 3 billion on Google every day:
This will ultimately lead to more visitors, subscribers and influence.
Build a list
If you don’t have one already, then the real magic of generating influence will come from that email subscriber list. See, the more you blog, the more traffic you get:
But that traffic is worthless if you don’t do anything with it. So, if you want a way to communicate with your audience, then start building an email newsletter list. This gives those who sign up an exclusive relationship with you. And your conversion rates will be much higher when you market to the email list.
Interact with your readers
One of the most basic ways to build and keep influence is to engage with your readers. Respond to every comment, engage them with posts that ask them for their opinions and pick their brains for insights using tools like Qualaroo:
Also, reward your readers with contests and giveaways that demonstrate how much you appreciate them. And you can really build influence when you create content that they love and want. That is the way to build that engaging community of people who become advocates for you as they share your content on the social web.
Use a variety of media
As the web grows and supports more and more types of media, you will have to learn some new skills in order to offer people what they want. These days, text is not enough to influence people. You now need to know how to use video, audio and photos.
When should you use which media? Here’s a little guide:
- Text – Keywords still dominate the world of search, so you will need to provide a substantial amount of copy.
- Video – Some people make video the center of their influence platform (Khan Academy has become famous through its use of video), while most other people use it to complement their other work (SEOmoz does this with its Whiteboard Fridays). Either approach adds to the power of your influence. By the way, you have to create a transcript of your videos for search engines and the readers who like to skim text. There are great services that can make that happen quickly.
- Audio – Audio works great for those people who are natural-born speakers. They are very comfortable speaking, can do it on the fly, and thus naturally create some of the best podcasts out there. Check out the Manager Tools podcast to see what I mean. If you are not that comfortable speaking, however, you still may want to consider using audio to enhance your content. For example, you could create a monthly podcast, where you interview an industry leader or explore a certain subject in-depth.
You will only gain an audience if you provide original content. Since there is so much competition online, it truly is harder than ever to be original.
There is so much great content being produced. How do you compete?
One way to compete is to ride the wave of a trending topic. If you are the first to share content on hot news, then you’ll gain some attention, followers and traction.
You can use Google Trends to follow what’s hot:
Based upon those results, you could write an article titled “What Zombie Apocalypse Can Teach You about Personal Persuasion.” In fact, you could write an article using all of those topics.
Then, you could take it a step further and use Google Insights:
Search by category, and you’ll get a very targeted set of searches.
Don’t forget that you can’t just create cute content from trending topics that aren’t useful and full of detailed research. You’ll probably lose your core audience. So, in order to build your influence and keep it, you have to provide content that your audience cares about. Only then will they listen to what you say.
You also need to follow as many blogs as possible. This will help you to stay current and generate new, fresh ideas.
Remain insanely focused
Those who constantly seem to be at the top of the searches and are always being quoted in this publication or that blog have a little secret: they discipline themselves to focus on one thing and one thing only.
They understand the big picture, and everything they do serves going after that big picture. That means that highly-influential people are delegators and use the best tools to accomplish their tasks in less time.
Here are four tools I highly recommend to help you stay insanely focused:
- Batchbook – Influential people have a huge contact list. But as it gets bigger, it also gets harder and harder to manage, so you need a system. This free, cloud-based tool will help even with your social media contacts.
- MailChimp – Naturally, you’ll need a system to stay in touch with all of those contacts. Repeated messages via email grow your influence among your readers. MailChimp can automate that process for you on just about any budget.
- DropBox – A no-brainer for people who need to store, share and access all kinds of media from their laptops or phones. Insanely focused influential people love convenience!
- Rescue Time – Like I said, influential people are focused. Keeping track of what they do, where they are wasting time and how long it takes them to do something helps them keep their razor-sharp focus. This tool is a must have!
This one is the other side of the coin of remaining insanely focused. People who have influence, lose it, build it up again and keep it, never, ever stop!
Sure, they will vacation and might even shut off their phones and laptops at the end of the business day, but when they are on, they are on.
Besides, it’s really tough to keep them away from their work.
This is also why influential people are successful people. They hang in there through the ups and downs because they know that success takes a long time.
You also won’t find them straying from their cornerstone content or their schedule. In my own career, being relentless has been easily one of the top secrets to my success. Are you relentless?
Find a common enemy
Another tactic you can use to build influence is to employ the tactic used by copywriters called “the common enemy.” See, people love it when someone stands up against perceived opponents, and they love getting behind the crusaders and supporting them.
The idea behind this concept is to zero in on a bad guy in your industry. Financial newsletters want you to think that the bad guy is the government; politicians pick on the other party; and Aaron Walls picks on Google.
He’s not alone, however. There are a lot of people who think that Google is dangerous:
You do need to understand one thing, however. You shouldn’t build your entire platform on finding a common enemy. Rather, this should be something you refer to on occasion.
In addition, try to avoid attacking actual people. Instead, focus on companies or institutions. It will be a lot easier to defend your actions.
Twist social media to your benefit
A long time ago, blogging was the only thing in town. You could influence people by simply going to people’s blogs and leaving comments. That’s exactly what Pete Cashmore of Mashable did, leaving a hundred or more comments on other blogs every day.
But with Twitter, Google+ and Facebook – and rising stars like Pinterest and Tumblr – at your fingertips, social media is going to be your most powerful tool for getting and keeping influence, certainly more powerful than leaving comments.
Don’t neglect your commenting strategy. Just adjust it.
Your first step, however, is to create great shareable content. Then you share other people’s content and follow and engage the influencers.
It’s a pretty simple formula for spreading your brand across the web and building influence…and it works.
Target your audience
One mistake you want to avoid when building an audience is going for the biggest. It is a lot harder to influence a large audience than it is to influence a smaller audience. I am not saying it can’t be done, but it just takes a very long time.
You’re better off focusing on a niche audience.
The problem with trying to go after the biggest audience is that it sacrifices quality for quantity. In the end, that always drives down your conversion rates.
The bottom line is you need to get to know your audience really well and then you need to give them what they want.
Be very personal
One of Robert Cialdini principles of influence is being likable. You have to be approachable, honest and authentic. That means you don’t have to churn out business-like content all the time. You can share personal life experiences that show people you put your pants on in the morning just like everyone else does.
I think Chris Brogan does this very well, and it is certainly a part of his appeal. Just take a look at his “Best Of” page, and you’ll see a lot of content from his personal life:
No doubt it feels like he is writing to you because that is exactly what he is doing! He’s conversational and passionate about what he does. It permeates everything he creates. Imitate Chris, and people will like you. Once you have them liking you, you can influence them.
Stick to your brand
If you jump around with your brand from your message to your colors to your design, you will confuse people. Confusing people doesn’t help them develop trust in you.
I understand that early in the game you may be tinkering with your message and who you are, but at some point you need to decide and then communicate that brand consistently across all mediums.
I love how Johnny B Truant does this. From his name to his image to his tweets and to his blog posts, he communicates his brand.
It’s original, and he’s very consistent with it.
What to do with negative publicity in 4 steps
Finally, let’s deal with bad publicity because no matter how nice of a person you are, you’ll eventually get an inflammatory blog post, reddit blast or ugly viral tweet…for all the world to see.
What should you do to keep this negative publicity from hurting you? Here’s how I recommend you handle the situation.
- Act fast – Naturally, you should be monitoring the social and web worlds for both positive and negative comments. Responding quickly will help reinforce the positive press and smother the negative press. Don’t let bad press blindside you. You should not be the last to know. You should be one of the first…and you should respond promptly.
- Don’t absorb the insult – If you’ve done a good job of keeping up your profile and extending your influence, then remember this when a negative comment comes your way: there are a ton of people who really like you. Plus, negative comments are usually generated by people who woke up on the wrong side of the bed or can’t be calmed down with a level-headed reply.
- Never delete the comment – Instead, respond directly to the comment. It’s more than likely many people have already seen the negative comment. Deleting it will only make you look like a sore loser. Responding quickly will show people who are watching that you have nothing to hide.
- Sort out the situation in private – Respond with something like “I am grateful for any feedback, no matter how brutal it is. Your opinion is valuable, and I’d love to talk to you in private to take care of the situation.” Never turn a customer service situation like that into a public spectacle. Send them a direct message and then try to win them over.
Responding to negative publicity quickly and kindly is one of the best ways to minimize any kind of damage you might suffer. Ignoring it will only hurt you.
Okay, so it probably seems like there is a lot you have to do to rebound during a round of declining influence. Don’t let that discourage you. It happens to everyone…even me! And we all have to do the same thing…we have to get back on our feet and start climbing again.
Many times I’ve fallen off the radar, so to speak, because commitments and new businesses have sucked me away. It’s easy to let that frustrate you, especially if you can’t get back to work on building your influence again…but I always remind myself that there will be a time…I just need to be patient. And if I can do it, so can you!
What tactics would you recommend to someone who is losing influence online?