‘If you get to thinking you’re a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else’s dog around.’

– Will Rogers

There is no simple answer to ‘What is influence?’ It has long been an area of intense academic debate, exacerbated now by the rapidly evolving social media landscape. Whatever influence is becoming in this new era, our futures are only going to need more of it, as it will follow us around and affect everything we want to do. Online influence is remapping our world.

When we go looking for online influence, sometimes we find it emanating from connectors and mavens, sometimes it sparks from average citizens. Sometimes it amalgamates with the content creators, while at other times it flows straight from the source, the great curators. We sometimes see online influence burst forth from leaders who rise from their communities to meet an unexpected opportunity. Sometimes we can barely feel the consistent stream of trusted advice that over the long term builds the unstoppable momentum of a leader. Influence is found in the heart of the little guys who stand up for their values. Influence is there among those who are ranked the highest on online leaderboards, even if their hearts aren’t in it.

Some define influence as the ability to affect the choices made by others, with three possible outcomes: compliance, identification and internalization. Compliance is when you secretly disagree, yet publicly agree with ...

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