The secret of influence everyone forgot

By Neil Patrick

Go and take a look at your Twitter feed. Do it now.

Scroll down the tweets in your feed and look at the little icons beneath each tweet.

Notice anything?

I'm willing to bet that most tweets you see will have zero shares, zero likes, zero comments.

No-one sees or is interested in 99% of their Twitter feed. This fact is a problem for the posters. And an opportunity for everyone else.

The explosion of online content (and the platforms’ manipulation of it for their own ends) means that only the very highest profile people and most active posters get much engagement with their social media output.

And this simple fact is in my opinion the most overlooked opportunity to create online influence.

This isn’t a marketing or media blog. So why am I bringing this up?

Because this current state of play is a huge opportunity for anyone who wants to build influence online. And online influence translates to offline influence more than ever.

If you are serious about your career, how much better placed are you if the internet recognises you as influential in your profession?

You’ll have a bigger network. A more authoritative voice. And the ability to help others.

Notice the last point. Help others.

Not ourselves. As the global marketing director of one of the big four global consulting firms once said to me about her firm’s social media,  "We have too much media and not enough social".

She summed up the situation perfectly. Her firm employs thousands of the best and brightest minds globally. Their daily production of expert and insightful material posted online far exceeds what I could produce in a year.

Yet when I looked at the social media influence of even the most active and established people people at her firm, almost none had achieved any significant online influence.

They were all putting high quality and interesting content online. But no-one cared. Their impact was virtually zero. It was because they thought that merely creating and posting things online was the whole task.

It isn’t.

Online influence is the outcome of positive interactions with other people, not fire and forget. And as Dale Carnegie wrote in 1936, "You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you".

So if you want to be influential online don’t follow the herd. Show your network that you care about them more than yourself. It is actions more than words which determine how others see us.

Decide who the people and organisations are that are potentially valuable to you. Put all of them onto a Twitter list. Call the list something flattering, such as ‘My favourite people online’.

Forget your main Twitter feed. Instead when you go to Twitter, go to your list and you can see what all of your important accounts are tweeting.

Share the ones you like. Better still add a positive comment.

This task takes no more than about 10 minutes a day.

Do it daily and the people you want to build a relationship with will notice. Sooner or later they will reciprocate. At the very least they will remember you and think well of you.

A similar approach applies to Linkedin. Last night as I was going through my new invitations to connect on LinkedIn, I came across an invitation from a lady who was a singer/songwriter. On the face of it, I have no reason to connect with such a person. Nonetheless I accepted.

But I also sent her a message thanking her for connecting with me and offering to introduce her to someone I know who is influential in the music biz. She was thrilled at the unexpected offer.

How often have others done a similar thing for me at our first encounter? Hardly ever.

Which is the whole point. In the space of 10 minutes I had been able to help out two people. Perhaps the introduction will be fruitful. Perhaps not. That is up to them. But this simple gesture of goodwill cost me nothing. For me there are no downsides.

In itself, this gesture won’t change my world. But because I do such things almost every day, I accrue goodwill from an ever increasing number of people. And that cumulative goodwill does amount to a great deal.

Almost daily, I am approached by others with requests for help. Offers of collaboration. Business enquiries. And even the postman must be confused by the number of packages that arrive from all over the world, when people send me things as gifts of thanks.

Recently I met with a director of one of the world’s biggest recruitment firms. At the end of our meeting, he said, "I follow you on Twitter - that’s how I knew about you". I was somewhat embarrassed that this fact had escaped my notice. He had noticed me, but I hadn’t noticed him.

But if he had ever engaged with me on social media, I would have certainly noticed.

If these anecdotes still don’t convince you, I have one final argument for adopting this approach - it’s a great deal easier and much less time consuming to be kind to others online than it is to create a new piece of content that goes viral.

And if you want a guide to social media, the best book about it was written in 1936. It was called simply, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’.

‘Nuff said.


  1. Great post Neil and you are right about that book. It is on my library shelf.

    1. Thank you Philip. Your comment made me smile because you obviously read the whole of this post! Take a bow my friend!