Chapter Two

Becoming a Person of Influence

Social media spark a revelation that we, the people, have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas we can once again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change. 

Brian Solis

Influence is power and if that is what you crave; influence can be money too. Before you deploy your influence using any digital platform, first you must understand certain essential values that your audience will be looking for before they embrace your influence—viewpoint, beliefs etc.

First, authenticity is everything. You cannot influence anyone if they do not believe in you or the ideas you share as content. In the era of fake news, you do not want to be that person whose content is often treated with cynicism until proven by other sources. Take for instance, the ability to use digital platforms for social good is possible because people trust you. I have led successful crowdfunding efforts using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoFundMe and others, and the campaigns travelled beyond social media; some donations came from people who heard about the campaigns from digital natives and wanted to help. In the same vein, there are people with a good following on social media, who are not able to rally people behind a fundraising effort.

 

This may come from low or zero trust. They probably would listen to you on other issues but would rather not trust you with money, because you have proven to be inconsistent or not proven to be trustworthy.

To become a person of influence, people must be able to trust you and whatever you say. To get people to act, you need to persuade, and the ability to persuade them depends on your credibility. They cannot believe you if you are not credible, and credibility comes from being consistently truthful. Being famous with thousands or even millions of followers will not change anything if there are credibility issues. Trust is capital. Just follow the classic wise saying: let your “yes be yes” and your “no be no”. As an influencer—this should never be equated to digital and social media marketers with some level of following—you must understand that your influence reflects your values. Your role is to identify the issues and yearnings of those you influence, articulate these issues and yearnings with more clarity, and if necessary, help them to start a campaign along that line. Your role as an influencer is not to use people to push your agenda; rather, it is to help the people push their agenda. Where your agenda and theirs do not align, make your position clear. They will understand and look to another influencer to lead them on that particular issue. But do not look to swim against the current of your own supporters just because you are the one with the huge following. A leader’s legitimacy is derived from those she (or he) leads. I have seen people mistake their influence for invincibility. But they do fade away in no time. If you want to lead and influence people for a long time, you must know when to lead them towards a common goal and when to step back from them to be led by someone else, if you are not sold to that goal.

What you must never do is force feed the people with your interests and biases. Once you understand this, digital media platforms will serve as avenues to dispense your influence and values.

Using Social Media to Influence and Persuade

Social media facilitates the sharing of ideas and information through virtual networks and communities, and with content, videos, photos, memes and other formats, it has also become a platform to influence and persuade others. It has helped to create fame (and infamy) at a pace unrivalled by any other phenomenon in history. The ten most popular social media apps in Africa with the monthly active users (MAUs) are the following, though the numbers change as users grow:

How to Win with Twitter and Social Media, Without Losing Yourself

I can write about this because I have become one of the constant features on Twitter where my presence and opinions hold weight. My reach has since transcended Twitter, because I have taken the capital derived from that digital power into non-digital spaces. Let me share with you, how Twitter can serve you exceptionally well. I will also share my thoughts on how to get ahead with Instagram, and I expect that you will maximize some of these ideas to gain leverage in your businesses and advance your ideas on other social media platforms.