There are a few influencers on Instagram and Twitter that I follow. I have go-to people for different types of marketing, spirituality, cooking, fitness and even entertainment. These people have earned the influencer title because they have a large number of people who follow them and their work, and who take their advice.
But you don’t have to be verified by a social media channel to be an influencer. It isn’t about the number of people who follow you. It’s about the impact you have on the lives of those in your orbit.
That’s why parents take great care to work to separate their kids from others they think are a bad influence, and surround them with other folks they feel would be a good influence.
The good news is, you are an influencer. You have the ability right now to intentionally use your influence to make a positive impact on others within your world. Whether it is on one or a few people, the masses, or somewhere in between, here are three ways to use it for good:
The primary reason I follow certain influencers on my social channels is because I learn something from them. They are all teaching something in their own way, and I like soaking up their knowledge. Some of the most influential people in my life have been those who’ve taught me something.
You don’t have to have to have a big platform to teach others; you simply have to seize the opportunities to share your knowledge with others. That could be in teaching your kids how to cook, ride a bike or other important life lessons. It could be teaching your colleagues how to be more inclusive in their work, or it could be teaching those in your network how to balance work and family life, build a personal brand, or manage their time better.
Use your experience to give others a clear path for how to get from where they are to where they want to go.
2. Elevate others.
In his book Give and Take, author Adam Grant told the story of Adam Rifkin, founder of PandaWhale, who’d been deemed the world’s best networker. Rifkin told Grant that one of the ways he’d become so connected was because of his commitment to helping others get where they wanted to go.
He shared his philosophy of the five-minute favor. In essence, it’s about doing whatever you can to help someone else, especially if it will take you five-minutes or less. Such favors could include making an introduction, giving advice or providing feedback, or even commenting on or sharing someone’s content within your network.
You don’t have to limit your influence work of elevating others to just five minutes, either. Companies are taking the opportunity to use their influence and resources to help others succeed, particularly those who are underrepresented in their industries. For instance, companies like Google, PRX and Spotify implemented training programs to help more women and people of color get into the world of podcasting.
You can use your influence to make life better for others by doing your part to give opportunities, break down barriers and support them in their quest toward reaching their goals.
3. Lead by example.
I’m a published author because my dad is one. I never knew him as a writer, but one day I called my parents and they showed me his book. I was so impressed. I was proud. I was inspired.
For a little while before that point, I’d dreamed of writing my own book. Now, here was someone close to me who wasn’t just dreaming about such a goal, he’d gotten it done. My dad showed me what was possible by blazing a trail with his actions. Seeing him publish his book made the dream tangible for me.
And so I got to work writing my own. When it came time to work on publishing it, I called my dad to get more information about what he did. Eventually I published my book.
One of my girlfriends is a writer. She told me recently that she was inspired to publish her first book because she saw me publish mine. She now owns a publishing company where she helps first-time authors get their books into the world.
You influence others by the actions you take. People are watching both what you do and don’t do, and it impacts their own behavior. There’s a passage in the poem “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson that captures this sentiment:
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Use your influence to inspire others to do the work and live the life they dream of, by doing the work and living the life you dream of.
Be proactive about using your influence for good. When you do, you’ll find that those you come in contact with will be better off because of actions you’ve taken. The more you engage in the three activities above, the more your influence will grow. And the more we’ll all benefit.
Read next: The 10 Laws of Cultivating Influence
Photo by DGLimages/Shutterstock.com