The ultimate goal for any successful professional is to become an influencer in their respective field. Influencers are individuals with followings and a voice in the industry — they lead and set direction for others. Establishing yourself as an influencer does miracles for your reputation and credibility, which directly translates to business success.
While there is no proven path to becoming an influencer, connecting with and engaging other influencers is an important part of building a name for yourself. Of course, social engagement with Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg may be a long shot, but there are many business leaders within your reach.
One tactic involves quoting industry influencers in your articles and publications. Business leaders love being quoted: Every mention strengthens their influencer status, and many will be glad to share words of wisdom with your readers. All you have to do is ask. Once your article is published, influencers might share your article with their followers, and they may link to your content or publicly endorse it. As the result, some of their “stardom” will rub off on you.
As an example, I’ve asked six prominent business leaders in my own network to contribute to this article by sharing tips on becoming a successful business influencer. Here are some of the responses I received.
1. Keep learning. I asked Guy Kawasaki, the Silicon Valley marketing executive and evangelist who is responsible for what the Apple brand is today, to share 80 words of wisdom about what it takes to become an influencer. “I only need three words,” He told me, “Know your (expletive).”
This laconic answer is arguably the best advice I’ve gotten. After all, how can you influence others without being a true expert in your field? True influencers never stop learning. Personal and professional development is always their priority.
2. Add value. Business influencers also add value. Kelsey Meyer, co-founder of content marketing firm Influence & Co., told me that the most effective way to be known as an industry influencer is to add value to conversations in your industry. This can be done through contributing articles to niche trade publications, speaking at conferences or even writing a book.
She says, “The point is that you’re taking the knowledge and experiences you’ve gained in the industry and sharing them with others for the purpose of educating and engaging, not selling or self-promotion.”
3. Help others. Being an influencer is all about giving without asking for anything in return. “I’ve found that helping others get to their goals is much more rewarding than getting to mine,” asserts Lane Campbell, an accomplished technology entrepreneur.
“It happened for me only after my professional skills had reached a point of maturity where I was able to help others get to their goals. I also found that the same people often wanted to return the favor and help me reach my goals.” Campbell is CEO and co-founder of June, a new service that helps senior tech talent get hired by leading firms.
4. Lead by example. People follow those whose values, choices and actions align with their own. Aleksandra Efimova, founder of Russian Pointe, a brand that provides North American dancers with the finest pointe shoes from Moscow, told me how she became a role model for many young women.
“People are attracted to those who have a clear vision,” says Efimova. “The strongest way to influence others is by empowering them through personal example. No matter where they are today, staying committed to their vision will lead to fulfillment.”
5. Share wisdom. Influencers also share their thought leadership with others. Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of mobile app developer Arkenea and is also a columnist for Inc., Entrepreneur and The Huffington Post. He told me that the key to influencing is providing value to others through quality content.
“Focus on producing high-value and actionable content that your audience can pick up and implement within their business — something that can make a difference in the immediate future,” advises Varshneya. “Almost anyone can dole out a high-level spiel, but what separates the influencers from the wannabes is the deep insight and experience of the subject at hand that influencers share with their audience.”
6. Become a mentor. True influencers not only invest in their own development; they also help others grow. “It is imperative to push and allow people who work for you to grow as much as possible, even if it means they will outgrow your organization and move on,” says Igor Golubchik, a serial entrepreneur with 18 years of experience in media, marketing and development. “After all, you want to be surrounded by those who are smarter than you to begin with. It is only natural to provide them with the right opportunities. It does pay off.”
While other methods may earn you credibility and authority, successful business leaders tend to agree on what is most important: focus more on giving, rather than receiving. Working toward earning influencer status can be a long journey. It starts with self-development, writing and publishing content, helping and mentoring others, continuously improving your game, networking tirelessly and working your way up to earning respect and trust. It’s a lot of hard work, but it is equally rewarding for the select few who become business influencers.