Does Influence Really Matter?

This article originally appeared on the AMEX Open Forum blog --  I wrote it to get people to seriously think about authority and influence.

Currently, Small Business Trends is running the SMBInfluencer's Award; for which Survey Analytics has been nominated as an SMBInfluencer -- you can see their nomination here and vote for them as well as any other gurus, companies and media organizations.

I’ve been thinking a lot about influence lately.  It seems that I’m not the only one.  Influence isn’t just for celebrities any more.  Small business has gotten into the game as well.  Mike Michalowicz wrote an article that talked about how you can grow your business by connecting with influencers.  And Guy Kawasaki gives us a real life example of  how you can create a path for influencing behavior by setting up an environment for easy compliance.

Why Influencers Matter to Small Business?

Influencers matter to your small business in the same way that segmentation matters to your marketing message – they simplify and cut the cost of communicating to large groups of people.

We’ve been conditioned to think of celebrities as influencers because a single mention from them can set product sales soaring.  During the times of network media domination, small businesses rarely got to participate in this kind of promotion.  But the advent of new media with its wide reaching social networks has suddenly made it possible (even easy) for small businesses to reach their target audience by investing their time rather than money.

Move Over Oprah!

Social networks have made it possible for experts in any area of industry to have their voices heard and to gain a loyal and responsive audience.  I’m specifically talking about people like John Jantsch, the author of Duct Tape Marketing, Robert Scoble, a technology evangelist from Microsoft and publisher of the Scobleizer blog and Anita Campbell, who reaches over 2,000,000 small business owners with her award winning publication Small Business Trends and is launching the first Small Business Influencer event for 2011 this summer!

The rise of the “Internet Influencer” has been both a blessing and a curse for those of us looking for good advice.  On the one hand, there is no shortage of expert small business advice.  And on the other hand, there are so many people in so many areas, that it’s hard to find the people who can help you the most.  So where is a small business owner supposed to go to figure out who the real movers and shakers of business are?

How to Find Your Best Influencers

In a previous post here on Open Forum, I discussed how influence measuring apps are helping small business owners filter through the plethora of experts on any given topic.  You can use apps like Mixtent or Klout to get you started in finding those people who are most active in their industries.  But that’s just the start.

Finding and building real relationships with influencers requires time, patience and effort.

  • Read and comment on their content.

  • Find out what their marketing and promotional goals are and look for ways to help them out.

  • Contribute relevant, high quality guest post articles.

  • Promote their content to your network.

  • Partner with them on a mutually beneficial project that will build THEIR audience as well as yours.

  • If they are an author; read and review their books on blogs and on Amazon.

This is just a short list that’s only limited by your imagination and creativity.