“The influential man is the successful man, whether he be rich or poor.”
–Orison Swett Marden
What is the nature of influence? As a YouTuber, influence is the currency that I have to transact with; after all, the more videos I make, the more influence I wield, and therefore the more views, subscriptions, and maybe eventually, when I’m eligible, the more memberships I’ll receive. Many YouTubers use that influence to sway their viewership–what YouTube guru Sunny Leonarduzzi calls your “tribe”–into purchasing products through affiliate programs or into taking some sort of action.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with this; in fact, it’s a basic human instinct. Wielding influence is often the goal of anyone in their space. Without influence, you cannot lead, and without leadership, you cannot accomplish your goals. Some people wield influence effortlessly, at least in appearance; the most common people that effortlessly curry influence are politicians, TV and radio personalities, prominent content creators on YouTube and Twitch, and social media influencers. Some spaces have higher barriers to entry than others, and more and more the “alternative” media of the internet is becoming the space to dominate.
There are far more contenders in the space as well; unlike traditional media, there is a very low barrier for entry to become an internet-based influencer. For instance, the total cost of my studio space, including the computer that I bought before I decided to become a YouTuber, was under $3000. No major TV equipment, no over-the-top microphone (although I have a good one), a simple 1080p webcam. The barrier I face is the same barrier everyone else faces–obscurity. That can be easier or harder to overcome depending on the niche that you decide to contend in; for instance, the primary niche I operate in, Entropia Universe content, has a very low number of creators operating in it; but the number of people that would be interested in such content is low compared to other niches. Every EU content creator I have followed, and I do the same, expanded out into other sectors on their channels to try and expand their reach and viewership.
So what is the nature of influence? Influence can probably be defined as the subtle art of getting others to do what you want. It’s not an easy skill to develop, and for those not predisposed to extroversion are going to have a harder battle still; to influence people you have to interact with them. Introverts, myself included, are not easily convinced to interact with people they don’t know unless they are required to. In fact, it was this issue that made me decide to work in sales–I had to force myself to become less introverted on command, even if it was only for the sake of the job, just to make my paycheck. To a certain extent, it obviously worked: I am now a YouTuber and blogger.
So how do you build influence? I am still learning, but the most basic thing that you can do is to provide value to those you wish to influence. Value doesn’t have to cost you anything, either; it can mean creating something that helps others, teaching someone a skill you have, providing honest council to a person struggling with a topic you have experience in. Most importantly, always tell the truth. This adage is so important, that whole books have been written about it. When I was a youth, and until I was in my mid-twenties, I wielded deceit liberally. It provided me a lot of outs from problems that I had caused or put myself into; it also ended up putting me with people I should have avoided. While I never committed a crime, it meant I couldn’t even trust myself, or my own recollection of facts, because I would do my best to remember things in the manner of my lie, to seem more truthful.
The result of this should be obvious. People didn’t believe the simplest words I spoke, and even now in my hometown I can feel the resentment of those I once wronged, more than a decade later. When I moved to the Midwest, after my divorce, I resolved to always be honest, with myself and others, even when it was painful. This doesn’t mean I don’t handle situations tactfully when called for, but it does mean that I will always be truthful with those I speak to. I noticed, over time, that people were coming to me for advice when before they did not, or even avoided me.
A final thought on this: it takes a long time to build trust, and even longer to build influence; it takes one mistake to screw it all up.
If you’re interested in reading more about building influence, particularly around trust, I’d like to suggest several works by Jeffrey Gitomer, which I will provide links below. Full disclosure: these are affiliate links, and I appreciate the support.
The Little Teal Book of Trust by Jeffrey Gitomer
Little Green Book of Getting Your Way by Jeffrey Gitomer