Aug 052014

3b2d328 - Three Words That Make You An Influencer

We are Influencer watchers. We just can’t help it. These people are fascinating to us. It is an exciting learning experience to read their articles energetically pulsating across LinkedIn. We look to these pillars of learning and human interactive thought for guidance, mentoring, and leadership inside LinkedIn’s influence-media.

It’s simple. Influence matters. It matters in your job and your social life. Influence defines your every social interaction,” says Influencer Benard Marr.

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Photo Credit: LinkedIn

We ask ourselves, fundamentally, where does this social influence originate?

The Late Nobel Laureate economics and sociology Professor Gary Stanley Becker (1930-2014) was one of my fine teachers, during my time spent at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He made important contributions to the family economics branch of economics, winning the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, John Bates Clark Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, John von Neumann Award, and the National Medal of Science for Behavioral and Social Science, among many other awards and honors too numerous to name here.

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Photo Credit: Professor Gary S. Becker, teaching inside his classroom during my time at the University of Chicago (2002-2004).


Becker received the Nobel Prize in 1992 “for having extended the domain of micro-economic analysis to a wide range of human behavior and interaction, including non-market behavior.

Professor Becker talked with me one day after one of his seminar classroom lectures at great length about the economics of human behavior, particularly in social interaction — in one of those wonderfully gifting accidental moments in life, we all have had, while speaking with an influential person who really knows what they are talking about.

My conversation with Professor Becker was quite revealing to me about what makes you an Influencer. It was a fascinatingly fast-paced and riveting discussion about the human aspects of pricing economics and social income and how they affect our daily social interactions in the context of family relationships, charitable behavior, and envy, even hatred.

Our conversation traced back to Professor Becker’s early 1970s studies of discrimination and even “prejudice,” where he analyzed discriminatory behavior by incorporating race, religion, sex, or other personal characteristics of employees, fellow workers, customers, business deals, and neighbors into monolithic economic measures that maximize human satisfaction and needs.

The Nobel Laureate also discussed with me how he influenced philanthropy through his work with the National Bureau of Economic Research, where he traced standards of living among the “have-nots” into maximum human satisfaction and needs measures of the “haves” in order to better understand how we all collectively influence charitable giving through our social interactions with each other about social need and charity.

Professor Becker’s thinking on social interaction and human influence, I believe, says so much as to why we read, write, listen, speak, disseminate, and assimilate about what you as an Influencer convey among us every day through our modern technologically advanced “hand-held” smart devices.

So, Here Are Those Three Words.

I came away from efficiently synthesizing and creatively retaining my memorable lesson with Professor Becker by effectively summarizing in my own words that there are just three words that make you an Influencer: Knowledge, Ability, and Status.

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Photo Credit: The Rolling Stone.


As an Influencer, you have free will and considered ambition to put your name and personage behind your knowledge, ability, and status.

Your reach and versatility of your content as a book author, a New York Times or Amazon bestseller, a ‘thought-leader‘ as a newsprint commentator, speaker, or broadcast media contributor, and even a group and conversation leader across Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn, altogether establishes your diversity of social interaction and status.

“Top Influencers aren’t just about selling, they’re about helping, and this extends beyond customers. Top marketing Influencers put themselves out there – literally. Blogging is great, but making it a priority to share your thoughts in person is still an incredibly powerful tool for building influence. That’s why the top marketing Influencers all speak,” says Brendan Cournoyer, Director of Content Marketing at Brainshark.

You see we are utilizing our core abilities in reading, writing, listening, speaking, disseminating, and assimilating to advance our frontiers of knowledge to new realms of status and influence on ourselves and others.

I learned very early-on in my life that if I did not learn these core abilities, then can I ever gain enough knowledge to influence others in my status as a university professor, working in the same profession teaching my philosophy of aircraft engine propulsion, much as Professor Becker did, teaching his philosophy of the economics of human behavior and social interaction and influence.

In that sense, perhaps, we are both spirits joined in our influence among others, as philosophy professors, sharing the great ideas of economics, efficiency, physics, mathematics, mechanics, to name just a few.

Most of all, a mastery of these core abilities is what I learned from Professor Becker, as a learner inside his seminar lecture hall at Chicago. So, I could, in turn, transfer new knowledge gained in “studying my students as much as the subject matter” in my influence and status, as a teacher inside my classroom – physically at Howard’s ‘Ivory Tower‘. But, just as important, perhaps, I can create, deliver, and transfer value as a professional, virtually inside the ‘learning forum‘ among knowledgeable professionals of LinkedIn influence-media.

A ‘learning forum‘ fundamentally resides in Gregory Bateson’s influential work ‘The Logical Categories of Learning and Communication’ published first in 1964, and then included in his book Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972). This learning medium further draws upon the extended lessons I have deeply embraced from my extraordinary Wharton School professor, The Late Russell L. Ackoff. Such ‘learning forums‘ across all shared influence-media (albeit LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc) involves ‘systems-thinking‘ in collecting, organizing, summarizing, analyzing, synthesizing, and deciding across a modern influential cycle of life-long knowledge acquisition.

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Built upon a growing flood of emerging ‘big data’ and more sophisticated social information to be ‘hand-held’ in our smart technological devices, a modern influential cycle of life-long knowledge acquisition, we are all working inside these days, requires constant learning and teaching, then learning more and teaching more – faster, better and cheaper – with the rapid proliferation of advancements in technology.

Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” – Sandra Carey

According to my former Wharton Professor Russell Ackoff, there are five types of influential content – ordered here in increasing scarcity – data, information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Knowledge encompasses an acquisition of data and information (“the what something is”) that provides the ability to create thoughtful Socratic questions.

Understanding (“the why something is the way it is“) is what allows knowledge (“the how something works“) to be converted into wisdom (“the virtue of what we one does, and why and how one does it“) through one’s own cognitive, experiential and analytical processes.

Influential wisdom draws upon knowledge and understanding that raises all questions and content that creates value to others, guided by one’s core virtues. Such wisdom gained from one’s influential understanding gives others the ability to make sound judgments and key decisions synthesized from new knowledge.

Dr. Joanna Boehnert, Visiting Research Fellow at Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences) in the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder, adds: “The idea that there are levels of learning and understanding has been an important theme in sustainable education.”

Dr. Stephen Sterling [in his doctoral work] developed a staged theory of learning directly from Bateson’s [theme on sustainable education]. Information processing occurs at the different levels. We live in an information rich world. But information does not necessarily lead to understanding. Critical pedagogy practices have developed processes to help learners move from processing information to developing deeper understanding and capacity for action,” Boehnet analyzes for us.

Ultimately, Influencers decide, because they thrive on it. Influencers have learned that they differentiate themselves simply by deciding. Because oftentimes, others around you have not yet decided. Their impending decisions, judgments, and choices influence how others socially interact with you.

More importantly, each of these influential words – knowledge, ability, status – I believe, combines to make you integrally a socially interacting, caring human being, networked effectively with others in so many efficient ways. This not only benefits you, as an Influencer, but also, at the same time, benefits others as Influencers.

To achieve more knowledge, you have to be an enthusiastic learner, engaged in ‘big data’ to analytically create for yourself useful, yet increasingly more complex, information to decide upon your next steps in your job, your career, and your personal life.

Knowledge is the ability to use information strategically to achieve one’s objectives. Wisdom is the capacity to choose objectives consistent with one’s values within a larger social context, says Robert Logan, What is Information? (2010).

Knowledge, most of all, leads to a better understanding to make sound judgments, as you perform to the best of your ability.

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Influential ability allows you to more wisely choose the critical steps in your life, eventually until you reach a level of social status desired of yourself and respected by others.

Great Influencers use publicity, conventional media relations, and social media to boost social status through modernized terminology concepts bantered around like, ‘life-streaming‘, ‘micro-personage‘, ‘macro-celebrity‘, and ‘self-branding‘.

Whether you personally like these terms and concepts or not, these are so much more than your “relationship status.”

You can find someone who can influence your life in so many more ways beyond just your “relationship status.”

Of course, this old-adage you may humorously find sometimes apply:

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Penney Fox, Social Media Strategist at Fox Interactive Consultants, says “Influencers are most active on Facebook and Twitter. With regards to the numbers of users, these are the two largest social media platforms. Influencers know they can reach a larger share of their target audience by having an active Facebook fan page and Twitter account.”

“The majority of Influencers use blogs as their websites. Their blog gives them a place to post their point of view and perspective on how to solve their customer’s problems,” Fox adds.

She observes, “When you run a search for their names, it looks like they’re everywhere. One of the characteristics of Influencers is that they know how to share their content across all of the social media networks. They’ll share their links on Facebook with an image from their blog, pin that same image and blog link to Pinterest, tweet the pin and then post it on Instagram.”

“They know how to market their informational content, because they show up and participate. They understand how social media will give them the sharing, click-thrus, and the eventual sales,” Fox analyzes.

No man [or woman] is an island.” – John Donne

Collectively, others will appreciate your integrity to socially interact in a trustworthy and not just a trusting way with people along these three dimensions of status: ‘you and others‘, as well as, ‘others and you‘. Yet, most of all, oftentimes quite invisible to you, ‘others to others‘.

This is not only a responsibility, accountability, self-expression, and generosity, but also the quintessential implicit trust, status, and power of an Influencer.

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Do you agree that ‘status’ can provide the highest cooperative advantage and the biggest competitive advantage, not only to you as an individual, but also to the company where you work?

Let’s Keep Our Eyes on The Persuasive Prize of Influence.

Neil Hughes, business applications specialist at the NEC Group in Birmingham, England, counsels “social media … has been going through a tough time with too many people breaking the golden rule [that] “social media is a dialogue and not a monologue” and audiences have stopped listening to pages just talking about themselves or posting their own links.”

Perhaps, I may have unintentionally fallen into this trap, I must humbly confess, as I am trying to learn this new mode of human interaction and social communication, we are all forced into nowadays.

For this, I sincerely beg your pardon, and please do excuse me. At times, I can be rather professorial in this new social medium. I just can’t help my own very small personal influence blogging here.

Yet, Professor Becker also taught me to put his theory in my own words this way:

To pay close attention always to the Sociology behind the Economics of Influence, and vice-versa.”

This means embracing the persuasive prize of economics to observe interactions between the behavior of persons around you. In addition, you want to observe different traits of other persons inside and outside your own influence, as an Influencer of your life, and that of others around you.

Man [or woman] is a social animal.” – Seneca

Isn’t this the essence of social media, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and influence-media, LinkedIn?

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What Do Great Influencers Believe ‘Make You An Influencer‘ on Social Media?

Continuing further along economic threads, the core concept of Professor Becker’s thinking here is “social capital.” Social capital is the sum of an Influencer’s own capital (his or her assets, earnings, etc.), and the capital value to said Influencer of the relevant characteristics of others. Such relevant characteristics, as we have already alluded to earlier, include integrity and trust, alongside responsibility and accountability with a touch of self-expression, and a sprinkle of generosity spread around to others. Social capital efficiently extends 24/7 both within and throughout an Influencer’s sphere of influence.

Built fundamentally upon Becker’s thinking on human capital, these social interactions are the essence of social capital resting upon “contemporary sociological and anthropological literature,” as Professor Becker taught me, and “considered the cornerstone of human behavior by several prominent 19th century economists.”

Thoughts of these economics classicists on the subject were largely ignored in the contemporaneous literature of the early 1970s, when Professor Becker was first shaping his Nobel Prize-winning thinking for the next several decades inside his 1974 “Theory of Social Interactions.”

I am an enthusiastic reader of Professor Becker’s writing, largely because I love how he taught me. He looked deeply into the words of the economists that shaped his sociological applications and observations that empirically test his fundamental theories of social interactions.

For instance, Professor Becker has shown me, as well as, other Influencers across institutions of society that a “head influencer” of your family is defined not by sex or age. Rather, that “head influencer,” if there is one, transfers general assets and capital to all other influencers of your family. This is mainly because that “head influencer” cares about others’ welfare. A family with a “head influencer” is a highly interdependent institution – like all highly influential institutions, being the church, the university, the government, the corporation, and the charity.

Professor Becker convinced me that the work of earlier economists deserves our serious attention, because it frames our modern social discourse and interactions, even through our marvelously technological ‘hand-held’ smart devices. Such things clearly transcends far beyond the three-dimensions of knowledge, ability and status, we have already discussed among all of us.

Here’s how the words of these 19th century economics teachers informed Professor Becker, me, and hopefully you, on why we say “Facebook Me,” or “Tweet Me,” or “Hit me up on Google Plus,” or “What’s your Klout Score,” or “Are we connected on LinkedIn?

Before the theory of social media demand began to be formalized by classic teachers, Jevons, Walras, Marshall, Menger, and others, economists frequently discussed what they considered to be the basic aspects of social wants.

Bentham (1789, chap. 5) outlined essentially 15 wants of pleasures and pains in our social interactions and influences.

Bentham puts such wants this way, “the pleasures … of being on good terms with him, [her] or them,” or “the pleasures of a good name,” or “the pleasures resulting from the view of any pleasures supposed to be possessed by the beings, who may be the objects of benevolence,” and “the pleasures resulting from the view of any pain supposed to be suffered by the beings, who may become the objects of malevolence.”

Nassau Senior said that “the desire for distinction … is a feeling, which if we consider its universality, and its constancy, that it affects all men [women], and at all times, that it comes with us from the cradle and never leaves us till we go into the grave, may be pronounced to be the most powerful of all human passions” (quoted by Marshall, 1962, p. 87).

Marshall also “stresses the desire for distinction and illustrates its influence by discussing food, clothing, housing, and productive activities” (quoted from Marshall, 1962, p. 90).

How Do We Describe Knowledge, Ability, and Status of an Influencer?

Specific knowledge, ability and status of time and place held by one having influence does vary. Becker’s thinking of social interaction and human influences across modern social media can match an Influencer’s knowledge with a diverse array of ability and status.

Rather controversial among social media users, albeit diverse in its Becker-like description of social interactions, Klout’s matrix of influence offers twelve different types of ability and status held by Influencers, along four dimensions: (1) participating and sharing (‘curator‘, ‘broadcaster‘, ‘syndicator‘, ‘feeder‘), (2) listening and causal (‘dabbler‘, ‘conversationalist‘, ‘observer‘, ‘explorer‘), (3) broad-in-scope and creating (‘tastemaker‘, ‘celebrity‘, ‘pundit‘, ‘thought-leader‘), (4) focused-in-scope and consistent (‘specialist‘, ‘activist‘, ‘socializer‘, ‘networker‘).

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For the benefit of our 7 of 10 social media users on mobile device readers, below are of the details of the above Klout chart for your convenience of quick review and study to find out exactly where your influential tendencies reside:

(1) participating and sharing


You find the most interesting information and share it widely. Filtering through massive content, you surface with the nuggets that your audience truly cares about and they appreciate your hard work.


You broadcast great content that spreads like wildfire. An essential source of information in your industry, your audience is wide, diverse and values your content.


You keep tabs on what/who is “HOT” and important to watch. Focusing on a specific topic or targeted audience, you share the best trending information and save followers from having to keep up on their own.


Your audience relies on you for a steady flow of focused information. Your audience is hooked on your industry/topical updates and secretly can’t live without them.

(2) listening and causal


You may be just starting out with the social web, or you are just not that into it. If you want to grow your audience, try engaging more and share more content.


You love to connect and always have the inside scoop. Good conversation is an art. When you are witty, your followers hang-on every word.


You don’t share much, but you follow the social web more than you let on. This could just be your style, or you are checking it out, before jumping in full force.


You constantly are trying out new ways to interact and network. You are exploring the social web and making it work for you. Your activity and engagement shows you “get it” and will probably by moving up soon.

(3) broad-in-scope and creating


You know what you like and your audience likes it too! Sure you know the trends, but you aren’t one to simply follow-the-crowd. You walk your own path and have earned your networks respect.


You are the height of influence — for better or worse. People hang on every word and share your content like no other. You are probably famous in real life and your fans can’t get enough.


People look to you to help them understand the day’s developments in your industry. Sharing relevant news/opinions, you know what’s important and your audience values that.


You don’t just share news you create the news. Your opinions are wide-spread and highly trusted. You are a leader in your industry. When you speak, people listen.

(4) focused-in-scope and consistent


You are the hub of the social scene and people count on you to find out what’s happening. You connect people and readily share your social savvy. Followers appreciate your network and generosity.


You connect to the right people and generously share your network to help followers. You know what content is important to your influential audience and have high levels of engagement.


You’ve got an idea or a cause to share with the world. You’ve found the perfect medium for your message and your audience count on you to actively champion your cause.


You may not be a celebrity, but in your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused in a specific topic or industry. Your audience is also focused and highly engaged.

Lisa Barone, co-founder of the firm, Outspoken Media (New York), in contrast, proposes a simpler set of knowledge, ability, and status of Becker-like human capital in the context of professional influence and Small Business Trends in The Five Types of Influencers On The Web.

  • Networkers (Social Butterflies) have a huge contact list residing across all social media. The networker knows everybody and everybody knows them too.
  • Opinion-Leaders (Thought-Leaders) are ambassadors of their brand. These thought-leaders are authorities in their field by based on credibility. The messages of these opinion-makers are quite readily commented on and retweeted.
  • Discoverers (Trendsetters) are the early adapters of the latest and greatest across social media. Constantly on the lookout for new trends, they become the “hub” in the sector.
  • Sharers (Reporters): distribute information to the bloggers to journalists through the specialized webzines. Sharers amplify messages.
  • Users (Everyday Customers): represents the regular customer, who does not have a network as large as the networker, but everyday customer’s network remains equally important.

What kind of Influencer do you identify with?

Share your own specific knowledge, ability, and status, as a person of social influence with others.

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Thank you so much for your time in reading this article. Will you please share it across your Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn social media? I do await your comments on this article.

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