Is Influence a Bad Word?

InfluencersPR 2.0Social media

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The more I chat with my peers, the more I receive strong feedback about the word, “influence.”  In a few conversations, it’s been pointed out that although we all want to know the secret of gaining influence, no one wants to talk about influence.  Of course, we would never walk around saying, “I’m an influencer.” Then, we’re really feeding into an ego system rather than a social ecosystem.

However, looking at influence from a different standpoint…don’t we want people to trust us?  Don’t we want to have the strongest relationships with community members and finally, don’t we want to help peers make decisions, because they believe in our honesty, integrity and value our opinions.  If influence was named something different, then would it be perceived differently? I wrote a post last August, “Social Media is Serious Business,” regarding the negative connotation around “Social Media.” I discussed removing the word “social,” to see if more companies would be on board sooner with their engagement. So, for example, rather than saying social media we’d call it strategic digital media.  Perhaps that would have changed the C-Suite mindset.

What would happen if we changed the word influence and named it something else? Would it still be seen as a bad word that carries a negative connotation?  Perhaps, we’d call it your trust factor or your characteristic rating.  Regardless of what we call influence, it is a powerful factor, well beyond what any number can capture.  In many cases, influence gets a bad rap. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I want to grow influence (both for my peers and personally) for the right reasons.  Because, when you grow influence, everyone wins; communities grow stronger, there’s more knowledge passed between members and more people benefit from the help they receive.

Now that you’ve heard both sides of the story, please weigh in to let me know how you feel about influence.  Do you think it’s a bad word with a negative connotation and something we should keep in check? Or, is influence something that should be a focus and we should nurture it to help one another?

6 Responses to " Is Influence a Bad Word? "

  1. I view influence as an outcome not an objective (shout out to Richie Escovedo @vedo for helping me articulate the thought)

    The objective should be building trust and developing relationships. Influence is an outcome, and I believe that the negative connotation comes from an aspiration to influence rather than to engage. If your goal is to influence you are focused on YOU and your goals rather than a mutually beneficial relationship.

    Just my two cents… Thanks for a thought provoking post!

  2. I don’t think influence is a bad word. I think what is happened recently with Klout and other services and how it is being used in social media has twisted it in a negative way.

  3. Deirdre says:

    Hi Valerie! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I think we should focus on the community and mutually beneficial relationships. However, the road that leads to this outcome, is introspective to determine how a person can be better at engagement and increase the value of interactions. So, in a sense there is still a bit of a focus on the personal factors, but not selfishly, only in an effort to build trust and help a community of peers.

  4. Deirdre says:

    Thanks, Ann Marie! I’m with you…I don’t think it’s a bad word, I just think it’s misunderstood when we get too wrapped up in the numbers.

  5. Shane Jacob says:

    Nice post Deirdre, definitely food for thought. I do not believe the issue is with the word “influence” but what rather what most people interpret it as or what context it is interpreted as. Most people see influence as a manipulation or a kind of pressure which results in getting people to act a certain way. It is taken more often in a negative context -think “under the influence of alcohol” :). I guess the perception would improve if you change the context – think “who/what influenced you to become a PR professional”. In recent times as Ann Marie put it, its interpreted as a score, a number which makes people worry – if your “score” is high or low does it mean you can or cannot influence people? I guess Influence needs to be seen more than just a number and to applied in a better defined context for it to be perceived the right way.

  6. Deirdre says:

    Hi Shane…thanks so much for commenting and sharing your thoughts. You’re right, depending on the connotation, the word can be very positive or negative. There are so many people who influenced me, in the best possible way, to pursue my career in PR and communications. Without their influence, I may not be where I am today. I’m not a big fan of scores, but I do see how the numbers give us guidelines or parameters but should be used not in a competition with others, but only to make ourselves better. And, we should always keep in mind that in some cases, the numbers don’t matter with respect to the level of influence or the meaning of the influence. You can have 100 people in your network, as opposed to 100,000, and have more influence simply by the way you interact and remain closely connected . I definitely agree that influence goes beyond the number and I think it’s important that we define it in a better context.

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