Millions of people consume content created and shared online each day, whether through blogs, videos, podcasts or other formats. As a content creator for your business, how can you break through the barrier and make yourself different to get the attention of a community? How can you launch yourself to the top and become an influencer?
Author, podcaster and former standup comedian Ryan Williams researched and interviewed over 100 top influencers from around the world for his book, The Influencer Economy, and runs a podcast that teaches creators the secrets to launching their business. Through his 10 principles to growing influence, you can learn how to self-start and collaborate your way to success in the new economy.
A Framework For Influence
The 10 principles of influence live underneath a larger umbrella containing 3 steps:
When you have a product or an idea, the first big step is to actually put yourself out there—to launch. So many people don’t launch out of fear of failure, but before you give up, think about what you will regret if you don’t move forward. This early stage is not about going viral or growing immensely right away. All you need to do is start and commit to your vision.
Once you get started, the next step is to collaborate or to grow your influence. A lot of people think a single tweet or having a million subscribers can change your life, but it can’t. True influence really comes from collaboration and working with others to get your name out there.
The final phase is to thrive. Thriving is all about what you do when you have customers, an audience or a community. How do you take care of them and nurture those relationships? In this stage of your influence, you need to consider how you can give to your community and have them reciprocate, how you can meet them and collaborate more with them. You truly have to care about your audience to maintain influence.
By working through these 3 phases and the 10 principles within them, you can go from the earliest stages of an idea to creating true influence within your online community, not just having “vanity metrics” such as likes, followers, and impressions. The execution of your ideas—launching, collaborating and thriving—will help you grow and succeed.
Phase 1: Launching
In the first phase of growing your influence, you’ll focus on launching your ideas and becoming accessible to the communities you want to reach. Launching and getting yourself out in the world will require some self-starting and discipline, but growth can’t occur without it.
Principle #1: Find Your Big Vision
The first thing you need to do when launching your idea is to find your big vision, or what you want to be doing. In order to launch and reach success, you have to focus your vision and build up. This often requires you to start small and grow over time—remember that you aren’t a failure if you don’t get a big win right off the bat.
For example, Ryan’s book The Influencer Economy was his big vision, but he had to start small to get there—if his book was his big vision, his podcast was his channel to get there. By starting his podcast, he was able to do research for his book and develop a community until his book was ready, so he had that influence prepared.
In order to find your big vision, you need to just start something. If you start a podcast, a blog, vlogging or even launching an alpha version of a product, at the very least you’re going to meet new people and find collaborators or friends. Then, maybe your business can scale. Try to start without defined goals—make something for the sake of making it and see where it goes from there.
Principle #2: Pick A Platform
When you have your vision, you’re going to need a channel to collaborate and communicate on and to generate opportunities. Most of us don’t know how to leverage our old networks of family and friends to the fullest, so your best bet is to find a channel that will help you get your message out. This might be building a website to collect emails, launching a podcast or developing public speaking skills.
It can be hard to grow outside of ourselves, so we often need to pick something to focus on to channel our energy and to generate opportunities. Find your channel to share your vision and start growing incrementally, and you’ll start to gain influence.
Principle #3: Book Your Own Gigs
When you’re ready to use your channel to get your ideas out into the world, you’re going to have to start at the bottom and rely on yourself to get things done. You probably won’t have the money to hire people to design your website and logo or to edit photos and video—it will all be on you. Self-reliance is a key trait of influence.
After a while, your influence will grow through non-transactional deals, through bartering and collaborating and helping others. If you’re good at one thing, you can barter with someone who is good at something else. This is a powerful way to grow relationships and get your own gigs.
Principle #4: Adopt Tech Early
Finally, while you’re in the launch stage of influence, you need to be able to learn and work with technology to grow. Early adopters account for 99 percent of influential people, meaning they weren’t afraid to embrace new technology and use it to their advantage.
For example, Freddie Wong was one of the first adopters of YouTube, making gaming content with special effects. His creation, “Video Game Highschool,” has been viewed a billion times. Due to his acceptance of YouTube, he was able to turn his viewers into crowdfunding supporters who funded his creations in exchange for valuable perks. His online community members could pay to meet him at Disney or get a visit directly to their door. He made the most of where he was and what he could do for his subscribers by being accessible.
This is where true influence comes from accessibility. You need to create things that are available on demand and that can be archived for people to search for and find later. Search for yourself and find out where you can be discovered—aim to be found on YouTube, Google, and Amazon. If you aren’t on all 3, you have that much lower of a chance of being discovered and growing your influence.
Ultimately, you need to be willing to invest your time and energy into finding your vision and launching it in order to see results. We often hear stories like Freddie Wong’s and assume that that is step one—that we start and that is just what happens. In reality, it can take years of creating content and staying accessible for you to really gain that community, that trust, and that influence.
Phase 2: Collaborating
Once you’ve launched and begun your grind to the top, you need to start collaborating. There’s a big difference between collaborating and sharing, though. Sharing is what we do on Facebook—posting to the void or spamming people with content. Collaborating happens when people opt into your content and want to work with you to make it happen. You can’t just pitch your ideas to everyone. To truly collaborate, you need to have a good sense of who you’re collaborating with and who are opting into you.
Principle #5: Strive For Authenticity
In order to grow, you need to be real and be authentic. According to some of the biggest influencers today, authenticity is when your actions match your words. When you find truth in what you’re creating, this is when you will build trust and succeed, even if you make mistakes.
Additionally, authenticity happens when you give people ownership of the brand and your customers feel like they are a part of it. Take, for example, the many communities online: Redditors, Deadheads or YouTubers. All of these people feel authentic and part of a true community they can collaborate in.
Principle #6: Collaborate
After you find your truth, your main focus should be on collaborating with others in your community. This is how you make new connections, open yourself up to new audiences and really build your influence.
A great example of this is a collab on YouTube—creators go on each other’s channels to share their stories and create content. When you collaborate, you always want to make sure it’s a win-win. Both people should be gaining something.
If you’re just starting to grow your influence, you’ll want to collaborate with others to get to the top. Once you’ve reached the top, though, you want to continue to collaborate, both to help others get their start and to stay relevant.
So how do you start collaborating? It’s all about being authentic and finding social proof—you don’t want to pitch your story to everybody. Do your research and be strategic before you pitch yourself to bigger influencers, but also don’t undersell yourself. Prove your value and help others have a good perception of you and your brand.
Principle #7: Capture Your Lightning In A Bottle
Your “lightning in a bottle” moment is the true apex of relevance, timing and influence. It’s when you really break out and begin to see the growth you’ve been working toward. Once you reach this moment, you want to build momentum from it.
You also need to make sure that you’re ready for your moment. Is your business scalable and able to handle the growth? When you grow a company and don’t set yourself up for success in that moment, the moment will vanish.
How to prepare for your moment really depends on who you are and what you’re doing. If you have a service business with a website, make sure it’s scalable and able to handle high traffic. If you are building a community with an email campaign, have content lined up for a month. If you’re building a presence with a blog, podcast or vlog, do you have a content calendar ready so you’re able to post consistently? The key to capturing your lightning in a bottle moment is to be prepared, keep your content consistent and stay relevant and authentic.
Phase 3: Thriving
The digital age really appeared around 2008-2009 with the emergence of Web 2.0. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were taking off and Instagram was just hatching. When those early-adopter influencers got started on these platforms, they had the tools to tell their stories. This enabled them and the content creators of the future to embrace the digital age, to “go big” and to really thrive in the world of influence.
Principle #8: Meet People IRL (In Real Life)
When you know you have influence, you want to work to retain it, stay relevant and grow even more. One of the best ways to do that is to actually meet your community in real life. Ask yourself: where can your people reach you?
A lot of people hate going to conferences, events or trade shows to network, but they are effective places to reach your followers. If you’re hosting events, try to make them smaller and more intimate. Whether you’re attending or hosting these events, though, it isn’t enough to just be there. Aim to make connections and find new opportunities.
Additionally, plan events where other people can network, too. This will help connect people in your following, making you the “connector.” If you help make other people money, you’ll find yourself in demand and gain other opportunities from it.
Principle #9: Open Doors For Others
In a similar way to helping connect others, you want to help kick your influence back down to people at the bottom so they can grow. Remember: the most successful influencers are givers. When growing your own influence, you’ll probably work with the people above you, so you’ll want to give back once you’re able. In doing so, you’ll get people involved along the way who will champion you in the long run.
Unfortunately, you’ll also come across people who will only want to take from you and your success. Combating this will require you to identify who is a giver (who does more than what’s needed of them), a matcher (who helps you when you help them) and a taker (who only has their self-interest in mind). Ideally, you’ll work with givers and matchers, but you’ll need to research and learn who people are and what they’re doing in order to give with purpose and not lose yourself.
Principle #10: Give Community Ownership
When you finally have the influence you’ve been working for, you’ll have a community of people who enjoy your content, opt in and look to you for expertise. The relationship you’ll want to build with this community is that of equals. Let your followers own part of your success. After all, it’s due to them that you have it.
To do this, listen to your community and hear their problems and their desires, then work to solve them. You may end up doing things you wouldn’t expect, but your community is invested in you, meaning the more you can deliver, the more likely they’ll stick by you for a long time, ensuring your influence.
Influence Can Make You Rich
A true influencer is not just someone who has a bunch of followers on Twitter and Instagram. Influence is all about digital collaboration and about putting yourself out there to other creators and your community.
You can’t collaborate digitally until you launch. Find your big vision, generate a platform and adopt the technology you need to self-start. Just put yourself out there and do it all. Then, make collaboration the secret sauce of your business. Cycle up your influence by exchanging ideas and wait for your lightning in a bottle moment to capitalize on. Once you have it, you’ll be ready to thrive, building a strong community of followers who feed your influence and who you help in return.
Ultimately, growing your influence is not just about making money. Getting influence can make you “rich,” but in the sense of rich networks, rich friendships and rich business. True influencers are “unintentionally rich” by following these 10 principles—by enriching their lives, finding purpose and helping others along the way.