As ordinary citizens, our ability to play a role and exert our influence over the decisions of our institutions companies and NGOs has never been greater. This can be seen from the strength of support and engagement on Twitter during the Arab Spring and the Paris attacks. The American presidential campaign continues to exert influence. While on social media a new form of democracy is emerging: influence is coming into its own (also read the page: “Influence, why some people have it and others not”).
This new order, a guarantee of transparency and simplicity in expression of our opinions, requires a different way of doing things and behaving, which represents a considerable challenge in terms of communication (also read the page: “Influence strategy: an 8-stage plan of action”). The need for authenticity, a mistrusting public opinion, dramatic changes in client relations and so on. Influence must be based on a more open approach with a non-negotiable prerequisite of letting go. Or how to become influential in 10 stages.
1. Create Collective Intelligence
Influence is now exerted through new types of interaction with a variety of audiences in a society in which everything is instantaneous. Central to this changing environment, brands, companies and institutions must learn to develop a real collective intelligence with their audiences. This is the only thing that will align with continuous open dialogue, by associating everyone involved in the building of their image and the thought leadership it claims. In 2010, the Gap brand had to abandon its new visual identity due to the bitter criticism it received from people online. Before bouncing back with an online design competition to choose its new logo, capturing collective intelligence for its own purposes.
2. Sharing Power
In a distrustful society in which public opinion has ways of asserting its ideas, questioning and even criticizing on the social media, NGOs, institutions and companies can no longer make decisions alone. They must let go and accept sharing their power with everyone that has helped create them, believes in them, shares their values, and joins their community. The case of Michel and Augustin, recently attacked by the L214 Association for the use of battery eggs in their chocolate mousse is highly revealing. Following several meetings with the brans and no reaction, the association decided to place a petition online denouncing the “distasteful” actions of Michel and Augustin. Almost immediately, the brand undertook to guarantee products free from battery eggs by the end of October 2016 (also read the page: “Why you should not confuse communication and positive influence”).
3. Accepting Criticism and Making it Useful
Related to sharing power and letting go, representatives are constantly exposed to criticism. Although the immediacy of social media and their viral potential are perceived as a form of violence and aggression by many, in contrast, brands should feed on criticism to gain influence and strength of conviction. A sign of the times, the British government chose to launch a specific digital application called “Get involved!”, to enable citizens to submit petitions to Parliament. This initiative is also a first attempt at direct real-time democracy open to everyone.
4. Changing from a Process to an Idea Culture
Our natural tendency to want to impose processes and a strict working logic is a form of reassurance for most of us. Yet, these processes always end up by diminishing our ability to innovate. So, it is essential to introduce times for interaction between celebrities, cultures, generations and different professions, to favor the emergence of new ideas. Similar to Apple, who, by bringing design, technology and uses together, successfully imposed thought leadership – Think Different – for 30 years, to fight and bring down the establishment of the time: IBM.
5. Coproduction is a Given
Co-building has become a matter of course, at least in people’s discourse. However, although businesses still shy away from the idea of coproducing internally with their own employees, some authorities engage with communities and show that they can stay a step ahead of the private sector. The participatory budget launched by the City of Paris in 2014 and more recently the “Reinventing Paris” call for innovative projects, are a form of powerful communication with regard to the people of Paris and the city’s future urban projects. This is strategy based on something self-evident: The Paris of the future can only be built with the people of Paris, by focusing on the common values of “democracy, sharing, housing for everyone, a sustainable legacy and innovation.”
6. Favor Reaching out Instead of Keeping to Oneself
Instead of restricting thought to a closed group often bringing the same elites together, who try to perpetuate a form of class power, it is essential to involve your whole ecosystem, even though new mobilization and questioning tools play a growing role in influence. The increase in the number of new platforms getting Internet users to vote on a petition is a demonstration of this. The lightning speed at which the “Loi travail, non merci!” petition spread, posted on change.org in reaction to the El Khomri bill, shows that reaching out is no longer an option.
7. Building and Sharing Your Own Vision of the World
Each influencer aims to create his own community and invite people to join it. Each company, brand and institution can extend its influence beyond a specific region, by sharing its own vision of the world with its public and by giving everyone an opportunity to contribute to it. These people will spontaneously associate the brand with a value, with codes connected with this community, and will adhere to this “thought leadership”. Similar to Red Bull, which founded its image of the world on the values of performance and engagement embodied by the Red Bull Stratos project, a freefall jump from an altitude of 39,376 meters, which was viewed 457 million times on the YouTube channel.
8. Capitalize on the Power of Feelings for Engagement
Feelings guide our behavior. And there it is no longer any need to prove the power of emotions in motivating influence. By means of a simple hashtag The Doctors of the World campaign, #Makeachildcry, shows how successful the posters of children crying in the Metro were in arousing the general public’s feelings and curiosity, before even rolling out the full campaign.
9. Accept Failure
We are constantly looking for success. This is why when our influence strategies fail, we can see this as a form of defeat and find the experience difficult, since it tends to shake our convictions. However, accepting failure is also a sign of continuous learning. Instead of thinking back to a campaign that did not work, we can learn from this and the difficulties encountered and seek to identify the reasons for this failure. In France, an entrepreneur who fails quickly becomes a pariah, when in the United States investors are suspicious of a lack of failure and therefore the experience of failure.
10. Last of All, Let Go
Influence in the 21st-century cannot be contemplated without letting go. Spreading your ideas and messages necessarily requires that the public takes possession of them, adding to them, sometimes criticizing them, but in the end bringing them to life, thereby defending your image of the world.