Monday, December 27, 2010

Increasing Your Online Influence

In previous posts, I've pointed out that influence within social media does not equal the raw number of followers that you have.  I've also shown why influence is more important to your online marketing strategy than simply trying to reach a huge number of people.  In this post on influence, I'll show you how you gain influence, which will help you increase the right kind of followers.
  1. Be Knowledgable-  In social media marketing, knowledge is key.  On Twitter, I posed the question, "Who influences you online?"  The best, most succinct answer I received was from @mikecane, when he said, "Those who know wtf they're talking about." No one will want to follow you for advice about cars if you are an expert on clothing and know very little about cars other than about the one you drive.  Know your topic, know your business, know what you are talking about.
  2. Be an expert-  This is an extension of being knowledgable.  Pick a niche within your knowledge area and know more about that area than anyone else.  Be THE person that people will want to go to about that particular subject.  Do you own an art supplies shop?  Talk about art supplies, but be an expert on watercolor supplies and techniques.  It doesn't mean that this is the only part of your business you should talk about, but, when people think of watercolor supplies, be sure that they think of you first.
  3. Be generous-  Knowledge and information are just as much a commodity these days as shoes or computers.  When you share knowledge with your followers, you are giving them something valuable, especially when it is something they need or want.  By giving knowledge generously, you create a relationship in which your followers want to reimburse you- with information you may find valuable (such as what your customers really want) or purchases from your business.
  4. Spread your knowledge- find other blogs that are talking about what you are talking about.  Read the posts and comment on them.  Leaving comments is a great way to get other readers to know who you are and to see your expertise.  Most blogs, when you leave a comment, create a link (usually by allowing people to click on your name) that can take them to your blog.  When readers find your comments to be thoughtful and incisive they may click through to your blog.
  5. Connect with people- This is the heart and soul of social media and is the part that many businesses forget about.  Building a list of followers and fans to just push links to take them to your website is the fastest way to lose them again.  Since you've spent the time to be an expert, share your knowledge, and leave comments elsewhere, take the time to talk with people.  Have conversations.  Answer questions.  It doesn't all have to be about your business or what you want to sell them.  Creating genuine connections, responding to those who make the effort to talk to you, being involved in ongoing conversations will humanize your business to your followers and will increase your influence.
It takes time to build an audience.  Don't expect to have a loyal following overnight or see an immediate impact on the bottom line.  The payoff will come.  Be patient, be real, and take the time to be influential. 

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