“Influence” is hot shit these days. Linkedin
has been making a big deal
about it; and it seems to be working
, according to Dharmesh Shaw
, a Linkedin Influencer:
First of all, there’s the sheer power and reach of the platform. When I write on my personal blog (which is reasonably popular) an article will get roughly 5,000-10,000 views. If it turns out to be popular and is widely shared on social media, that number can spike to 50,000+ views. That’s pretty good. It makes my day when it happens.
But let’s compare that to how my content performs on the LinkedIn platform. I’ve posted 30 articles as an Influencer. The average number of views across those articles? 123,000!
The most popular article I’ve written has received 1.2 million views and 4,200 comments (whew!) That’s heady stuff.
And it’s also fun. I enjoy the opportunity to write about a broader range of topics. Obviously I write about issues that are important to startups, but I also get to write about building a company you love, andpersonal branding, and even extremely broad themes like the qualities of truly confident people.
I’m sure the same leverage also comes through publishing in Medium
, The Atlantic
and other big Web publishers that pump lots of “content,” as they say.
I have three problems with them.
One is that they’re all silos. I don’t have a problem with that, by itself, because every publisher in the physical world has also been a silo, for as long as we’ve had publishers. The difference in this case is my second problem: they don’t pay me. If they did, I’d be glad to write for them. My third problem is noise. A lot of stuff published on the sites I just mentioned is damn good. But all of them are pumping as much as they can in front of as many eyeballs they can, to make the most money they can off of advertising. Even that I have no problem with (provided the advertising is of the old-fashioned brand kind, and not of the surveillance-fed kind). My problem is with the volume of it, which tends to make everything into Snow on the Water
. I also have little faith that the links won’t rot.
But here’s the bigger thing. I care more about being useful than being influential. That’s because being useful makes you influential anyway. So here are two ways to make yourself useful (as Mom used to say): tag eveything you can
and use permissive Creative Commons licenses
. Lets start with the effects of these things, for me, and work back to causes.
Look at these links:
All of them feature a photo by me. I did nothing to put them there beyond tagging uploaded photos “anthropocene”
and licensing them to only require photo credit (“Attribution CC BY
“). This is why, whenever somebody writes about the Anthropocene Epoch
(a durable topic that deeply matters), there is a high chance that one of my photos will illustrate the piece, with credit.
Photos generously licensed also tend to show up in Wikipedia, by way of Wikimedia Commons
, which is a palette of graphic elements that writers can raid when editing Wikipedia articles. As of today 490 of my photos are in Wikimedia Commons
. Many (perhaps most) of them also show up in Wikipedia, again with credit. I did nothing to put any of those photos in either Wikimedia Commons or Wikipedia. I simply made them useful.
Two more bits of advice: say interesting stuff, and link a lot. We can see the effects of both in Echovar
‘s blog post, Mind the Gap: You are as You are Eaten
. In it he takes someting I said, follows three links in it to three different pieces, and writes deeply about all of them, in ways I had not anticipated, which makes the whole thing even more delicious.
Was I being influential there? Or simply useful? Perhaps it was both, but useful comes first. It might be the most leveraged virtue in civilization.