Brand Influence: Everyone is Wrong About Influence. Except Your Customers


What is influence?

  • For a decade, Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point has served as a touchstone for those who believe that influence resides in the hands of a select few.
  • Not so, says a new generation of marketers. They believe that thanks to the democratizing power of the Internet, anyone can be an Influential.

Both camps are wrong.

What drives influence?

  • True influence flows from drawing together people with shared interests.
  • In turn this creates a feedback loop that builds value for the brand.

What creates it?

  • Value.
  • Produced through a combination of identity, vision, and mastery.

Driving and creation are locked in an evolving feedback loop of learning, including the limits and validity of what we know and the potential of what we don’t know and need to validate. The more we teach, the stronger our learning and execution.

Brands can identify, enroll or build, and grow influence. They will increase theirs in return on interest. Focus on the process— identify relevant areas among your customers and prospects, build community, and allow others to amplify your influence as you meet their needs.

See my talk on influence—it was first presented at SxSW ineractive 2011 (solo talk) and updated for SMX East in 2014.


This page collects my thinking about the topic.


Understanding influence

Many factors contribute to the development of our identity:

  • heritage—where we were born, where we live, our age, educational background, etc.
  • environment—transient external factors such as the economy
  • needs—they include both what we truly need and what we think we need and actually just want
  • interactions—we also define ourselves in relationship with others

These factors, along with others based on situation, contribute to our behavior—context and trust are among the strongest signals we should analyze.

More on understanding influence


Influence marketing

Good programs have a few things in common:

  1. Focus less on who people influence and more on how people are influenced.
  2. Think more about networks, and network structure, rather than treating everyone as behaving independently (group dynamics).
  3. Move away from the idea that you can engineer buzz to achieve some pre-established outcome, and get better at measuring and reacting to buzz that arises naturally (observation from context).

More on success


Influence at work

How do you create collaboration with your teams? How do you marry what with how? From research, creating collaboration is useful when:

  • Activity cannot be divided into small independent pieces (otherwise Collection would be better).
  • There are satisfactory ways of managing the dependencies among the pieces.

The organization’s approach to decisions can be situational. However, you’ll need to be transparent and communicate how you’re going to make decisions.

More on outcomes


The skinny on influence tools

Key questions on creating influence:

  • How do you get people to do “xyz”? Hence my favorite question: why?
  • Do you need scale? Is there higher influence in smaller circles?
  • Can we move from retweets to clicks? How about validating metrics?

True influencers are those who have built platforms where attention and trust are currencies. My take on tools is that they provide data points; they’re not the Holy Grail.

More on tools

This section likely includes tools that don’t exist anymore, or have different functionality today. The principles still hold.


Conversation Agent quotes on Influence from Valeria Maltoni


The 25 articles + 1 presentation on this page will help you define your needs when it comes to influence and marketing.

Speak This is also one of my keynote topics. See how I weaved the trends and conversations into a story in preparation for my solo presentation on influence at SxSW Interactive March 14, 2011, updated for SMX, September 2014.

Check out recent talks, business panel moderation, event testimonials, and how conversation agent was born.