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How To Use Your Web Influence Wisely

You don’t have to be a “person of influence” to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me. Scott Adams

You don’t have to be a ‘person of influence’ to have your say any more.

To publish. To be read. To influence others.

The internet gives us the freedom to publish (to write, to tweet, to blog, to share photos).

To have a platform from which we can, and do, influence the lives of others.

But how do we make the most of that power and influence?

What responsibilities come with these freedoms? And how do we learn to use our influence wisely?

Get Clear On Your Purpose

1. Think About What You’re Spreading

Take stock of what you’re spreading, whether that’s an idea, a way of working, new ideas about learning, a business proposition, a different perspective on the world.  Are you proud of that influence?  Will you look back on the trail you’ve left behind without regret?

2. Work Out What You’re Trying To Do

There’s a big difference between marketing, learning, collaborating, making money online, networking, building community, running a campaign, promoting a sense of place.

Some tools will serve your purpose better than others.  Just because others are using them doesn’t mean you should.

Work out what you’re trying to do before you jump onto the next bandwagon.

3. Look for Ways to Make a Difference

There’s no shortage of things that need fixing, ideas that need championing, people who need connecting.

Look for the things that make your heart beat faster.

Look for the ways that you can add value through your unique contribution.

4. Think About The Benefits for Others:

Yes, there’s lots of fun to be had from social networking sites like Twitter, and lots of ego gratification to be had when you see your influence-ometer going up the way.

But the real reason it’s worth investing your time, energy and influence is because it’s going to make a difference beyond you: to learn more about your customers, to break down barriers to learning, to reach hard to reach groups, to spread powerful ideas.

5. Then Challenge Yourself Hard

If those are the benefits for others… are the tools you’re using the best way to make them happen?

Could you have more influence if you used other routes off line: by picking up  the phone,  spending time with ‘real’ friends, channelling your bite sized chunks of energy into writing a book?

Take Responsibility for Your Influence

6. Focus on Your Purpose

It’s easy to get distracted by some of the tools on the web.  They can be huge time sinks if you’re not careful, and it’s not hard to start feeling overwhelmed.

Keep asking yourself why you’re doing something, and how it relates back to your bigger purpose.

Influence isn’t an end in itself.

7. Be Influenced by Others

Look out for teachers and mentors who can give you ideas and inspiration.

That might be practical help with adding a new widget to your sidebar - or the inspiration to change the way you look at the world.

There are lots (and lots) of positive voices out there, and no excuse not to be able to find them.

8. Know Your Boundaries

Get clear what you’re willing to share, what not, and why.  Think about the consequences of those decisions for your readers and customers (if they found out something you’re not disclosing) and for your family, your friends, and you (if you’re disclosing a lot).

9. Don’t Forget the People Part

Technology might be what’s helping you make the connections… but it’s still a person who’s listening to you, looking at your photographs, following your tweets - being influenced by your words, and your actions.

10. Take Responsibility

Odd for a world where everything seems so fleeting - but the things you write, link and share have a lingering presence on the web.

Be willing to stand by your words.

Keep Your Writing Feet On The Ground

11. Write For One Person - Even If You’re Reaching Many

It’ll help you maintain rapport, engage with your readers and create that powerful sense of personal connection.  (Plus it’ll help to keep your feet on the ground, and stop you getting too big for yourself.)

12. Narrow Your Focus

Writing to try and reach a lot of people can trip you up: create writer’s block, make your writing sound stilted, lead to the impression you’re broadcasting, not connecting.  Even though you’re aiming to reach - or are reaching - many, keep your focus narrow, on the connection you can create with just one  person.

13. Share Something of Yourself

If your aim is to make a connection, to create an impact, to exert your influence… then you’ll probably need to share something of yourself.  Your point of view, your view of the world, your experience including (some) warts and all.

14. Value Every Reader

Your readers aren’t obliged to give you their attention.  There’s plenty of other free entertainment out there.  Unsubscribing, unfollowing is as an easy as a simple click away.  Don’t take their attention for granted.  Value every reader - and write that way.

15. Leave Space for Others

Having influence doesn’t mean knowing it all or being in sole possession of the answers.  It’s being able to shift perspectives, make connections, join dots, point the way to possibility, leave room for others to get involved.

Believe That Your Influence Matters

16. Challenge your limiting beliefs

You’ll probably know if you’re holding yourself back because of limiting beliefs.  (Inner narrative that might sound like: I’m too old, I don’t know how to, I’m not like tech minded enough, my ideas aren’t good enough, I don’t have anything of value to say.)  Answer the inner critic back.  Test whether those beliefs are serving you (and others) or not.

17. Don’t Go For False Modesty

Think about what you can teach, what skill you can pass on, what ideas you can share, what unique perspective you can bring.  In a piece on chainsaws and mentors Jon Swanson challenges us thus:

What do you know better than others? Who looks up to you when they want to learn that? Are you willing to acknowledge that you know it better or do you say, “This? Anyone can do this.” Are you willing to watch people work, to share your knowledge without knowing everything? Are you willing to share the little piece that you know?

18. Acknowledge Your Power

Rosa Say asks whether you’ve got influence.  The answer’s of course: we all do.  The real question is how, when and why you chose to it.

Got Influence? We all do. The question is if we know how much, and if we take complete responsibility for the effects of the influence we have, and choose to wield. When we use it, influence gives us leverage.

19. Recognise and Respond to the Desire For Connection

Maybe this is influence, maybe it’s leadership.  Seth Godin, introducing his new book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (which I am itching to read) talks about the hunger for connection:

It’s so tempting to believe that we are merely broadcasters, putting together a play list and hurtling it out to the rest of the world. Louder is better. But we’re not. Now we’re leaders. People want to connect. They want you to do the connecting.

20. Ask Why Not

If you shy away from extending your influence because you ‘just’ want to share ideas or to connect with like minded people ask yourself ‘why not?’ share ideas with more people, connect with a wider sphere of influence, get more readers, establish new connections.

Why not?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers here. I still consider myself to be an internet novice: still gawping in astonishment at the things we can do and the power we have at our fingertips.

But I do like to share what I’ve learned (yes, and that would be in the hope of influencing others).

And I do like to write down the lessons I’m still trying to learn (or teach) myself in the hope that I’ll pay attention to my own words… I’m sure this list could be a lot longer (and conversely - a lot shorter).

What other things would you add to it?  If you had to boil it down to one or two most important things - what would they be?

Linked and Recommended Reading:

What Are You Spreading? by Jon Swanson at Levite Chronicles

Feeling Overwhelmed by Social Media and Web 2.0? Here are 5 Tips for You by Darren Rowse at Problogger

Ospitalita! Prego! What My Italian Grandmother Knew About Community Building by Liz Strauss at Successful Blog Twittering Away My Time and Other Social Media Myths: by Karen Swim guest posting at Word Sell Always In The Picture by Jon Swanson (on writing style) Got Influence? by Rosa Say at Talking Story Leadership is Now the Strongest Marketing Strategy by Seth Godin Influence and Responsibility on the Web by Karen Swim at Words for Hire Photo Credit: Pavig Lok (on the left) and Hobos on a field trip by Bettina Tizzy on flickr

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  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, magnificent post! (Is this the longest post you ever wrote?)Today I especially like your advice to concentrate on one reader. It really does sharpen the writing and paradoxically opens the door to conversation with many readers. Here’s a question we could all ask ourselves - how would you describe the ideal reader (persona) of your blog?

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..How to Write a Business Letter

  2. Karen Putz says:

    Thoughtful post, Joanna. This one resonates with me:
    3. Look for Ways to Make a Difference There’s no shortage of things that need fixing, ideas that need championing, people who need connecting. Look for the things that make your heart beat faster. Look for the ways that you can add value through your unique contribution.

    When I look back, I see the wonderful ways the internet has allowed me to connect with others and make a difference. That’s what makes it all worthwhile-knowing that in some small way, a positive change happens.

    Karen Putzs last blog post..Working with Your IEP Team

  3. wilson says:

    I agreed with your thoughts here, Joanna. As most of the time, I was overwhelming with the current situation and always being carried away until I found out myself already out of topic lol

    Thus, it’s very important to stay in focus when we’re writing :)

    wilsons last blog post..The Most Suitable Acne Treatment to Chase Away Acne!

  4. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, it’s funny, I had a deadline and didn’t finish writing today’s post. I am glad that I did not because I can now post it with a link to this one. This post fits right in with what’s on my mind today. It is something in the air lately (election? economy?) that seems to be causing a shift and a need for us all to stop and think about this question of influence. This post deserves a second, third and fourth read. Wonderful points and insights and after I read again, I will likely make another comment! :-)

    Karen Swims last blog post..A Design for a New Day

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  6. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Brad, thank you. Re the length: maybe. I’d need to check. Sometimes I feel the need to write things that are more like articles and say what I think. Wouldn’t want to overwhelm you all ith too many though!

    Writing for one = opening the door to many is fascinating isn’t it (and nice way of putting it). I have to confess I don’t have one ideal reader but tend to pick one particular reader, commenter, blogger, writer, client for the piece I’m writing - I focus on what I think they maybe need to hear right now. It helps to keep it real for me.

    Karen (Putz): I can only imagine that you have made lots and lots of positive changes, in so many different ways. You combine positive intention, courage and a very big heart (and smile) in a way that is totally infectious and inspiring. If you don’t mind me saying so :-)

    Wilson: staying focused on what counts… yes, that really is what counts :-)

    Karen (Swim): what can I say. You and I seem to be in each other’s heads! Thanks for a wonderful piece. I’m glad you had time to link to mine at the end. I’ll add a link to yours, and include it in the round up of responsibility posts early next month too.

  7. Vered - MomGrind says:

    Keeping the boundaries is very important to me. My blog is highly personal, so it’s easy to get carried away and share too much. I make it a point to read every post before I publish it, to make sure it’s in line with my boundaries.

  8. Damien
    Twitter: rileycentral

    Wow. What an excellent thing to publish. This is a post I will be recommending to many people, as well as to myself.

    Damiens last blog post..Inside MacEnroe’s Brain

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  10. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Vered, thanks for taking the time to pop over here, esp when you are inundated with comments! Taking time to read before publishing is a good idea in any case but esp when you’re writing more personal stuff. I often count myself lucky that I’m not - makes many aspects of blogging a whole lot easier.

    Damien, thanks. I’m going to be recommending it to myself too :-)

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  12. Debbie Yost says:

    I find your timing quite interesting. I have been struggling lately on whether to proceed or not in blogging. I love it. I really do, but it takes so much time. Not just the posting, but the keeping up on other blogs. Then, I go out and read so many other blogs on Down syndrome awareness and wonder if I really have that much more to offer. Peanut did not have many of the medical problems that so many other children did. Would I really be missed? Maybe by some, not really by others. On top of that I really enjoy writing for the magazine Root and Sprout but that takes time, too.

    You make some very good points and things I will consider. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, I know that much, but I continue to consider whether my influence is needed.

    I completely agree with you about finding teachers. I have found many in the past year and you are one of my best! Thank you for being there for me.

    Debbie Yosts last blog post..Two Request

  13. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Debbie, I think it’s wise to keep on asking yourself what you’re getting out of blogging, including all the other stuff that goes with it like the reading and commenting, especially when you’ve got a young family to bring up. The answers to your reflections are sure to help you move forward, whatever the outcome. If you keep going (and as one of your readers of course I hope you do!) you’ll be clearer about the difference you’re making or want to make which can only be a good thing.

    Thanks so much for your kind words - they mean a lot to me.

    I hope the weekend went okay for you, and that you being out and about in the blogosphere means you’re okay :-)

  14. Mitch says:

    Wow, that’s a lot to take in. Of course, as long as my posts have been, I guess I should talk.

    So, what would I agree with most and what would I agree with least out of a list of 20 items? I think I agree most with #13, share something of yourself, because a blog without personality is a textbook, and we all hated those.

    And the one I agree with least, oddly enough, is #12, mainly because I see so many people interpreting that one as “find a finite niche”, and that’s what usually creates writer’s block more often than being willing to expand their boundaries and write about whatever they want to write every once in awhile.

    Overall, this is a great list; nice job!

    Mitchs last blog post..Credibility, Article Writing, And Marketing Products

  15. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Hi Mitch - yes it is a bit on the long side. I don’t normally write at such length!

    I’m glad you found some particular points that resonated with you. Thanks for taking the time to leave some feedback, it’s appreciated.

  16. Tumblemoose says:

    Hi Joanna.

    Thanks for reminding us that even though it feels anonymous to sit in front of a computer and type away, words really do mean something. I’ve been influenced by what I’ve come across on the web. I will keep in mind that what I post may very well influence others.



    Tumblemooses last blog post..NaNoWriMo - Less than 3 days! Get Busy

  17. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    George, hi. Yes, I think that’s a useful framework for writing on the web. It helps to get through the fear that can sometimes grip us (all those people watching!) and also the dull sense of anonymity and invisibility that can seep in if we think no-one is there. Words can and do make a difference, and it’s always good to write with that in mind.

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