How Influence SHOULD Work

Just Chris Brogan I’m obsessed with how influence should work, and more so, how it doesn’t.

200,000 people will read this post at some point over this month. If I ask you (you!) to donate $10 to this very special cause, which will fund a magical prom for over 500 special needs kids and give them a night they’ll remember forever, the goal of $25,000 should be met in an hour or two. But that won’t happen.

  1. Because maybe special needs isn’t your cause.
  2. Because you wanted to do so but got busy.
  3. Because too many people hit you up in too close a time frame.
  4. Because you don’t care for how I asked.
  5. Because anything.

I know, because I’ve worked on helping people raise money online for years now. Every cause is different. Every goal is different. Every ask either works or it doesn’t, but it rarely is as easy as just putting the request out there and seeing how many people will will respond or take action.

The Psychology of Influence

I’m not rewriting Cialdini’s book here, and I’m not even looking to mirror any of his findings. In fact, there are plenty of great books on influence that bear reading. In fact, if you’re in marketing and sales and you’re not reading more books on psychology and fewer books on “social media,” then I’m not sure what you’re hoping to accomplish. But that said, let’s talk it over.

Influence is a really tricky term. Because there are all kinds of permutations:

John Jantsch influences me by how he conducts himself. I admire him a lot. S. Anthony Iannarino is my go-to person for helping me understand sales. Derek Halpern gave me a recommendation that changed how I manage my newsletter list. But if Anthony tells me which kinds of socks to buy, I won’t listen. If Derek tells me I should try the beef brisket, I’m not in. If John tells me to please support his fund to help Dalmatians get stripes instead of spots, I’m not interested.

So are they influencers or not?

Klout (I’ll wash my mouth out later) tells me that I’m influential.

Chris Brogan

It says I’m influential in a variety of things, not the least of which is “philosophy.” (?) I guess I can say that’s true, because what I spout (and what we all spout) is a philosophy of sorts, but I don’t know. And do I really have a lot of influence over social media? I have a loud voice. Is that the same thing? I have a lot of people who have opted to receive my message. Is that the same? I don’t rightly know.


It also says that I’m only 2 points away from being as influential as Tony Robbins:


In which universe is that true? Twitter, maybe? That’s about it. One of us throws events on his own island. One of us lives in a condo and does his own laundry.

How I Wish Influence Worked

I know that we’re always busy. I’m busy. I get lots of requests just like you do. What I wish was this: I wish there was some kind of “gate” or “catcher” that sorted out requests for our influence, an RFI if you would, and that let us pick and choose to deliver value where we could.

I believe this:

  • You and I both want to be more influential on matters that matter to us, like this.
  • You and I don’t like hearing about matters that we don’t care about.
  • We’d be so much more powerful and effective if we could have a better system to parse and understand what was being asked of us, and especially if we could take very minimal effort to support the requests.

Not because we’re lazy, but because we’re all busy.

That’s my take.

What about you?

Oh, and if you can spare $10 or $20, please make these very special kids have a night to remember. Okay?

Join me for free and get valuable insights that go beyond the articles posted here.

Your privacy and email address are safe with us.

And thanks so much for your support.

–Chris… runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Theme Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you're a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

With automatic theme updates and world-class support included, Genesis is the smart choice for your WordPress website or blog.

Become a StudioPress Affiliate

  • Chris Tomlinson


    I think it just comes down to three elements: logic, asking for someone to cooperate or touching the emotional strings. For example – your request about the prom for special need kids is the emotional influence.

    BTW, I’d donate because I have a step-sister with down syndrome, but I just lost my job last week so I’m watching every penny.

    • Chris Brogan

      So sorry for the job loss, Chris.

    • Yonatan Eliyahu

      IT does suck. While I haven’t yet lost my job, I moved from Kansas City, MO to Odessa, TX to work in the oil field. My pay increased about 200 a month but my rent went up $600 monthly. A major loss if you ask me. You know what I’m thinking about this whole escapade? Start a blog, be an entrepreneur, do what I love.

      What I’m saying, and how it may relate to you Chris, is use the opportunity to do something better with and for yourself. Sometimes it is these hard events in life that push us over the edge—to something better and greater than a job offers. That’s what I’m using these circumstances for—to push me to the point of desperation so something better can be born.

      • Chris Tomlinson


        I’ve been down the entrepreneur road from 2005-2011 and it was a nightmare at times as well as a great thing. I’m just not sure I’m ready to take that risk again. I’m not Mr. Brogan by any stretch of the imagination. LOL

  • Yonatan Eliyahu

    I don’t know how much I’d have to say about this. An algorithm from a website like Klout can’t properly assess ones circle of influence. It’s a flawed method—always will be. Klout looks more like a gimmick than anything useful.

    Tony Robbins has built ‘celebrity’ for himself through his years of TV work and events. He has a lot of influence, sure, but how far does that influence extend? Me personally wont be influenced or moved by him, not that I have little or no respect for him, but I can’t relate to him on any scale. Why would I place my trust in anything he has to say?

    Influence, I suppose, can only be truly measured in how we change peoples lives around us. Your attempt to raise money for special needs children is awesome, and I’m sure the amount of people you do influence will easily (hopefully) raise that $25,000. But see, your not influencing your readers, instead, your influencing the lives of those children on our behalf—our money through your platform.

    Bah, I don’t really know what I’m saying. I suppose what I’m wanting to take away from this is, influence isn’t the number of people following or friending us on social networks, but the number of people we’re affecting, leading and changing in the process—and by that I mean in a deep way.

    I think Tony Robbins has a superficial influence on people, mainly because of his perceived celebrity, but it’s also that perceived celebrity that causes people like me to overlook everything about him. It comes down to relationship I suppose. It’s much easier, and far more powerful, to influence a close friend than a new acquaintance, and that influence extends beyond an island retreat event thing.

    • Chris Brogan

      You and me both. I’m just glad you shared your take on it. I like Tony. Wasn’t intending to slight him. Just there’s no way he or I are in the exact same circle. : )

  • Kristi Hines

    I like how they offer you “perks” to give a little extra to the charity. Thanks for sharing such a great cause!

    As far as Klout goes, it really doesn’t judge a specific type of influence, just popularity. Mine has gone up lately, and I’m almost sure it’s just because so many people like my newborn photos on Facebook. :)

    • Chris Brogan

      So isn’t that interesting. I like your photo so I find you interesting. : )

      • Kristi Hines

        True. :)

        I was thinking from a professional standpoint. I know someone who is looking for a job in social media, and the company he’s trying for uses Klout to score their candidates (they only want people over 60). So I was thinking they might end up hiring someone who gets a lot of engagement for their personal activities on Facebook, but not necessarily their professional ones on Twitter and other networks.

        • Yonatan Eliyahu

          A company using Klout as a tool to help in choosing potential employees? Wow!

  • Katybeth Jensen

    A fun cause to contribute a little something towards! I will say, sign-up, trudging into the living room to find my purse to grab a credit card and imputing it almost had me clicking away—-BUT then I thought–Sheesh stop whining. . . I bet these kids face bigger challenges…..

    • Chris Brogan

      Well super! I felt the same thing, though. I was thinking, “If they let me use PayPal,” but then…

  • Rex Williams

    Washing your mouth out made me chuckle.

    I think it comes down to what Godin taught us years ago – Permission Marketing.

    We want to be more influential on matters that matter to us and we don’t want to hear about things we don’t care about. So we all opt-in for the various messages we care about, and we deliver messages to people who’ve opted-in to hear us.

    The system is in place and working through all the various platforms and systems we connect on, and even places that we visit, or people we spend time with in person. But of course there’s overlap and we’re going to hear stuff we’re not interested in. In that case, we’ll need to use a higher level personal discernment system to either ignore or engage.

    Especially if you’re curious or an explorer.

    I like most of your stuff, Chris, but I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. People need to have more patience and tolerance with the stuff they don’t care about that might come from the sources they do care about.

    • bcoelho2000

      “I like most of your stuff, Chris, but I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. People need to have more patience and tolerance with the stuff they don’t care about that might come from the sources they do care about.” – EXACTLY!

      In the past, just because Picasso did a work that didn’t impressed should it mean that we wouldn’t want to hear from the guy? :)

      You talked about Seth – even though I’ve been reading his posts for years, only now I’m considering to buy one of his books – The Icarus Deception. So that reinforces what you said.

      Nice insight Rex!

  • Shannon Belew

    Hi Chris, I always enjoy your posts, even if I don’t always agree 100% with your take on some topics. Today, your post triggered the following thoughts from me:

    1) influence doesn’t always result in action, but it doesn’t make it any less valuable; 2) there is value in reading good Social Media books; and some Psychology books may lead you to the wrong (self) diagnosis if not careful; 3) there are many indicators of influence, some more accurate than others; 4) influence often starts with like-mindedness and is furthered as trust is built – once you have that relationship, you do have the opportunity to influence on many different topics/ideas/products; 5) there are many wonderful causes in the world for each of us to support, but there are many reasons why we do and don’t, or can and can’t donate at any given time.

    Choosing to use your influence to help spread awareness of a cause is also valuable – and I applaud you for using *your* influence to do that for this particular cause! Thanks for being influential, Chris.

    • Chris Brogan

      All good points to have, Shannon. Thanks for making me think even more on it. You’re not wrong. And thank you. I do what I can.

  • http://Cate.TV/ Cate.TV

    love :) not sure what RFI is an acronym for but if it might be “R.eally F.inding I.nformation” about an individual by really taking the time to get to know them – wouldn’t that be Neat? :) kind of thinking there’s no “we’re only HUMAN” algorithm yet :) people, people who need people – she breaks out in to song!

    • Chris Brogan

      Sing it! : )

  • Jillian: Model Nerd.

    I feel most requests that come in from some party you don’t already know are essentially RFI’s.

    And when you start to pick through requests to stack things on the “maybe” and “yes” piles, you’re deciding whether you can deliver the influence (and by extension, results) the request is asking for (all in an unspoken, implied manner).

    It would be easier to process and respond if a request bravely says “You influence people on this subject. I need more influence in this subject. Spend some of your influence savings on endorsing me and I’ll try to be worth it.”

    So are you really suggesting a more straightforward pitch letter?

    • Chris Brogan

      Maybe not a pitch letter, but rather some kind of parser. Something that would take a request and automatically match it to my interests and let the letter through based on that. Might be tricky. How do I know if something new is an interest?

  • Bonnie Clark

    Your post reminds me of a quote by Michael Hyatt :

    “I always treat everyone as a volunteer. My job as the leader is to create a vision so compelling that they enroll themselves.”
    Also, have you ever checked out Sally Hogshead’s work? At Facinate, they believe you can have influence with others by using any of seven facination triggers:

    Power, Passion, Prestige, Alarm, Mystique, Rebellion, or Trust.
    Really interesting stuff.

    • Chris Brogan

      All good folks to know. : )

  • Joel Zaslofsky


    I totally see where you’re coming from and where these two sentences were going: “One of us throws events on his own island. One of us lives in a condo and does his own laundry.”

    But you confused success for influence. The material manifestation of influence (e.g. money or the ability to get many people to come to you) can’t be directly weighed against the influence of, say, Mother Theresa. You and Tony Robbins are both highly influential people, but in different ways and in different realms (as you went on to note). There are lots of people who will respond, “How high?!” when you, Tony, or other influential people say “Jump!” Hopefully that’s apparent by a large number of donation to your cause of the day (I dig it).

    • Chris Brogan

      I suppose in different verticals. Makes sense to me.

  • Brent G. Trotter

    I totally agree that understanding people (psychology and human behavior) are the the first step in understanding influence.

    Great post, Chris

    • Chris Brogan

      Thanks, Brent. Glad that it resonated.

  • Michael Martine

    The blind spot for trying to measure stuff the way Klout does is that it’s in a bubble. Tony Robbins’s influence extends far beyond blogging and social media. And when you look at the number of followers that big celebrities have, then you see what real influence does.

    • Chris Brogan

      True that. That’s what I’m feeling.

  • Dino Dogan

    I think your take on influence is total BS, Chris.

    Just kidding :-)

    • Chris Brogan

      Lord knows I do. : )

  • Helen Hoefele

    Influence is just one factor. Your recommendations definitely put new things on my radar, but then those other factors you mentioned kick in at varying degrees at different times. Urgency of the cause matters to: “nice to have” vs “need to have”.

    In your example, one way to filter is to maybe create something like a Charity-of-the-Month Club where you do the curation of causes and where members who sign up would already be in the ready-to-give mood/mode and can almost blindly trust your recommendation. Maybe even suggest that if your choice doesn’t resonate with them, that they then donate $10 to any other Indigogo event instead. Just thought that might be an interesting way to test some of your theories about influence.

    BTW, I would expect that even the President of the United States gets varied participation rates in the variety of requests his political action organization puts out (to his supporters) almost weekly, so there’s definitely more than just influence in play here.

    Just my opinion, of course. Interesting topic to consider though.

    • Chris Brogan

      That might certainly help. Good thinking. : )

  • Pingback: When it comes to online influence of purchasing decisions a blog is far more powerful than social media

  • Chris Brogan

    We need that book. Deadly. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  • Mary G. Robinson

    Christopher. although Rosa`s comment is nice, on tuesday I
    got a great new Chevrolet after having made $9441 this last 4 weeks and just a
    little over 10k lass month. it’s realy my favourite-work Ive had. I actually
    started four months/ago and straight away started earning minimum $77, per
    hour. I use this website,, jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • Mary G. Robinson

    you think Jesus`s story is shocking…, three weeks-ago my brothers father
    in-law recieved a check for $5132 putting in a ninteen hour week from their
    apartment and the’re friend’s mother`s neighbour done this for eight months and
    errned more than $5132 part-time on their pc. applie the steps available on
    this page, jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • Maegan Anderson

    article.I’d want help in understanding how to think about developing
    influence for my businesses. How you measure it is in results..however, you
    won’t know if those are good, unless you know what you set out to do and
    identify red herrings that can take you off course.

  • Pingback: How Influence Works and -

  • Pilar Torres Wahlberg

    Really enjoy your posts. We like the same sort of people. I have a lot of respect for John Jantsh. Out of curiosity what did you learn from Derek with regards to your newsletter list? All the best.

    • Chris Brogan

      We chatted on G+ already about this, so just… thanks! : )

  • David Mattichak

    I think that our influence is something that is measured by other people and is much harder to see for ourselves. I have become influential in an obscure niche and people that share that specific interest are continually telling me that they admire my thinking and the information that I provide within that very narrow framework but that influence doesn’t translate to a wider or a general audience.
    I find that you have influenced my thinking about the topics that you discuss and the value of your information has encouraged me to share your influence with people that I know can use the kind of advice that you offer. Often these people share my opinion of your influence but unless they are interested in this specific subject then you are just another blogger.
    Influence is an elusive property and it is tied to authority. The reason that you are influential is that you are authoritative and informative- you offer value for the time that people spend reading your posts and your (fantastic) newsletters. This is based on a genuine passion for what you are doing rather than on your drive to become influential.
    Great post Chris- very thought provoking.

  • Jason Miller

    Just donated Chris and added one of their perks. I really love the way they put this campaign together.

    You make some excellent points above as well. I once tweeted something funny about Jar Jar Binks that received a bunch of RTs and now Klout has me pegged as an expert in all things Jar Jar. Ugh.

    As far as influencers for me, Hugh Macleod is my go to for spawning creativity. I consider his book Ignore Everybody sort of the owners manual for being a true individual.

    Looking forward to seeing you at SMMW next month.

  • Pingback: Saturday Link Love: DIY Honey Face Wash & More

  • Joseph Manna

    A great case on the limitations and the possibilities of influence. This is exactly why influence measurement and “influence marketing campaigns” fall flat is because they don’t consider the causal factors of one’s influence and the response to calls to action.

    Chris, you don’t have to be dismissive about it. People are will only take action when it benefits themselves. It’s selfish, but that’s what social media is all about it. They put the “ME” in social media. It frustrates me when I see people who want to build community, but couldn’t give two shits about the one they’re in.

    I appreciate how you unpacked the differentiation between influence and having a loud mouth (volume). I wish more companies would realize this and would focus on who has the right signal-to-noise ratio for their needs.

    Anyhow, I donated $20. Thanks for bringing this topic up, Chris. Hopefully beyond our chat-chatting, we could make a meaningful different in someone’s life by giving them a chance to have a prom they wouldn’t normally get.

  • cericbrown

    So, I just discovered this Internet thing… And wow, it wasn’t a fad after all. And now I found your site – totally cool… J/K

    Anyway new to the site, but love the posts so far. And I completely agree with a previous comment on scoring systems being an open invitation to gamers.

    That said, I am learning a lot from you and others putting content out there to be read, but one thing I notice often, at least in my life, is a difference between influence and resonance. In other words, I like the word influence because it denotes impact or change on someone or something. Where resonance demonstrates a sense of similarity or familiarity. I think for many people, they want higher influence, but they act and interact in ways that generate increased resonance. Resonance is easier to measure (e.g., likes, tweets, comment counts, etc.)

    I admit that I just checked my Klout score and well let me just say, “You rock!”

    And honestly, many days I will wonder why my readership isn’t going as fast as I want, or some other social media monitor isn’t going up as quickly as I would like, but then I come back to a thought on “Do I want people to like me? Or do I want people to change because of me and a dialogue we have?”

    There is material on your blog that I will use to change my thinking and behaviors, so with that I will gladly say you have influenced me.

    Well done and I appreciate you.

  • cdn

    I funded the Prom for students with special needs! No hesitation. Of course your influence played a part. And so did Indiegogo, a platform I trust. Even timing played its part (evening here in Brussels, winding down after a busy day). And so did the cause: I recently met a young woman wanting to develop a line of design-clothes for people with special needs. I not only think it’s a great project that I will support, it made me aware of the need for challenged/disabled people to be included. In the broadest sense of the word…

    My point is, influence plays a role, but influence alone won’t get you there! You need to get the cocktail right, and context is important, too! And proximity — I think people more easily fork out money for causes that are close to them, geographically, or to their heart. And that is probably true for Obama, Tony Robins, or you or me for that matter…


  • Melissa A. Polk

    Alexa. if you, thought Jeffrey`s artlclee is super,
    yesterday I picked up a new Lotus Elise when I got my check for $4994
    this-last/5 weeks and-in excess of, 10k lass-month. this is actually the
    nicest-job I have ever had. I began this 4 months ago and straight away was
    bringing in over $72.. p/h. , jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • Cathy Tibbles

    I’m not sure how one picks their charities if they have a lot of influence. I know I pick 2 charities for my family. Period. And 2 per year for my business. Those are always financing women entrepreneurs in 3rd world countries (with a penchant for Africans because I love it there! I figure its a perk of being a business owner. ) It makes it easy and fast to filter out all the rest.

  • John Corcoran

    I didn’t know Tony Robbins lives in a condo! : ) As you know already, you got me to donate to the San Diego prom. Cool cause.

  • Kumar Gauraw

    Yes, influence goes way beyond blogging & social media. But it is easy to begin from there and then extend it to real influence.
    Very insightful post. Thank you.

  • Darlene S. Esser

    uptil I looked at the check which said $9296, I didnt
    believe …that…my mom in-law woz like actualey making money part time from
    there new laptop.. there friend brother haz done this for only 1 year and
    resantly cleard the morgage on there mini mansion and got a top of the range
    Buick. go to, jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • Pingback: Listly List - Artykuły must read vol. 2

  • Pingback: Online influence of a blog more powerful than social media | Local Internet Marketing

  • Pingback: Online influence of a blog more powerful than social media | Local Digital Marketing

  • Pingback: How Influence SHOULD Work @chrisbrogan

  • Pingback: Online influence of a blog more powerful than social media | Little Fish Digital Media

  • Dallas McMillan

    Great article Chris – clearly things like Klout are imperfect, biased and focus on the social/digital – I don’t think we can ever pin someone’s influence down to a number but I think these numbers do tell us something real… there is just a lot of noise.
    Personally I’m fascinated by the influence (which is invisible by these metrics) which really matters – like how your mum and your friend from high school deeply influence you, even if you never tweet them