An influencer is someone who leads a movement based on the passion and loyal support of their niche community. Seemingly overnight, influencers can inspire the evolution of a smaller project into a world-changing idea. Influence is not something you are merely born with—it’s a learned and acquired skill. And like most skills, one’s influence can be honed and crafted over time.
To thrive in the modern influencer economy, you don’t need an Ivy League degree. You don’t need to know celebrities. And you don’t need to have a lot of money. You just need to learn from other influencers and apply their leadership style and personality traits to your own life.
1. Influencers are givers.
Influencers focus on helping one another without expecting anything in return. They balance giving with their own self-interests to make giving a win-win for all parties. Adam Grant, author of the best-selling book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Your Success, told me that “givers are not just philanthropists or volunteers… but people who enjoy helping others and often do it with no strings attached.” Grant explains that givers have the greatest opportunity to both succeed and fail in business because givers can often be taken advantage of, but the most successful givers thrive when their own self-interests align with giving.
2. Influencers are curious about the next big thing.
Early adopters are people who start using technology products when they are first available. Influencers treat early adoption as a way of thinking, a mindset and a philosophy for who they are as creators and entrepreneurs. Curiosity about new technology mediums is all you need to figure out how to launch your idea. Moving first on technology doesn’t mean you need to be a social media or tech expert; it means that you see technology as a tool and a process, and you aren’t afraid to try new things.
3. Influencers build a big vision over time.
John Wooden once said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” This is true of influencers as they build their big vision over time while crafting smaller projects along the way. Simply put, your big vision is your end goal. To get there, make your vision simple and stick to it. Influencers do not let anyone or anything get in the way of their vision. Influencers go big and then validate their vision to prove they are the best in the world at what they do.
4. Influencers experiment to find their goals.
Startup investor Brad Feld of the tech accelerator Techstars and co-author of Do More Faster, says that when starting a project, “You don’t need to have your outcome or goal clearly articulated at the beginning, especially when you’re trying things that have very low barriers.” Having specific goals now can cause you to miss important goals later, and “can get in the way of the process.” Influencers often experiment in a direction that can cause them to find more specific and significant goals along the way. Sometimes starting without goals can build new friendships, help you gain a new skill or completely open up new opportunities. Influencers focus on curiosity, not outcomes.
5. Influencers collaborate with other influencers.
A “collab,” as it’s called in the YouTube world, is another secret-sauce ingredient in the Influencer Economy. In this case, it’s when a YouTuber appears in another YouTuber’s video. Each creator is able to share the other’s success and introduce new audiences to each other. It’s a win-win way for YouTubers to help others and reach new communities. Even big YouTubers want to collaborate with smaller YouTubers, not just to help them out and pay it forward, but also to grow their audience in a smaller niche.
6. Influencers aren’t afraid to pivot their ideas or career.
Pivoting is about seizing new opportunities and taking risks with new endeavors. In the tech industry, it often means changing your idea based on feedback from your customers. It also means adding new businesses to your portfolio or résumé in order to take your career to the next level. To thrive in the modern economy, you need a willingness to evolve your career throughout your life, sometimes even recalibrating your career in a bold new direction. If you aren’t happy with the course of your career, meditate on your direction and keep in mind how a pivot can lead to bigger successes.
Influencers are transforming media and entrepreneurship in the modern business age. The current generation of influencers are launching game-changing ideas, building loyal communities and thriving with fulfilling businesses.
Are you an influencer? If not, and if you want your mindset to be more like that of an influencer, consider how you can incorporate their personality traits into your daily routine.
This article was published in September 2016 and has been updated. Photo by @Yankasvetlanka/Twenty20
Ryan Williams is a digital media strategist and professional speaker who coaches executives and entrepreneurs on leadership and career reinvention. He is a former media relations manager at Disney, and director of marketing at Machinima.com and State.com. In early 2014 he launched his Apple “New and Noteworthy” podcast, Stories from The Influencer Economy and in 2016 published his book, The Influencer Economy. He is also a former standup comedian. He currently runs his own marketing consulting business and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two daughters.