influence

Article by Sonia Thompson

I follow a few influencers on Instagram and Twitter. I have go-to people for a range of interests, including marketing, spirituality, cooking, fitness, and even entertainment. These people have earned the “influencer” title because they have amassed large numbers of followers who pay attention to them and take their advice.

But being an influencer isn’t really about the number of people who follow you or being verified on social media. It’s about the impact you have on the lives of everyone in your orbit. That means you are an influencer, regardless of whether you’ve adopted the formal title. You have the ability to use your influence to make a positive impact on others.

Whether you want to affect a handful of people or the masses, here are three ways to use your influence for good:

1. Teach

The primary reason I follow certain influencers is because I learn something from them. Indeed, some of the most influential people in my life have been those who’ve taught me something. The same is likely true for you.

You don’t need to have a big platform to teach others; you simply have to seize the opportunities to share your knowledge when they arise. That might mean teaching your kids how to cook, teaching your colleagues how to be more inclusive, or teaching people in your extended networks how to build personal brands and manage their time better.

No matter what you teach, the aim is to use your experience to help others get from where they are to where they want to go.

2. Elevate Others

In the book Give and Take, author Adam Grant tells the story of PandaWhale founder Adam Rifkin, who has been dubbed “the world’s best networker” by some. According to Rifkin, he was able to become so connected in large part because of his commitment to helping others achieve their own goals.

Rifkin shares with Grant his philosophy of “the five-minute favor,” which holds that you should do whatever you can to help someone else, especially if it will take you five minutes or less. Such favors can be as simple as making an introduction, giving advice, or even sharing someone’s content with your network.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should only elevate others if it takes five minutes or less. You can go as big as you want to. Think, for example, of initiatives like the Google Podcasts creator program, a collaborative effort between Google and PRX meant to help more women and people of color break into the podcasting industry. You may not have the resources of Google or PRX, but you can use your influence to make life better for others by doing your part to surface opportunities, break down barriers, and support people in their quests toward their goals.

3. Lead by Example

I’m a published author because my dad is one. For a long time, I didn’t even know he was a writer, but one day, my parents showed me his book. I was impressed. I was proud. I was inspired.

I had dreamed of writing my own book before I had seen my father’s. Now, I had an example of someone close to me who wasn’t just dreaming about such a goal — he had actually done it. My dad showed me what was possible by blazing a trail with his actions. Seeing him publish his own book made the dream tangible for me.

So I got to work writing my book, and when it came time to publish, I called my dad to get more information about what he did. Eventually, with his guidance, I published my book.

One of my girlfriends is a writer, too. She told me recently that she was inspired to publish her first book because she saw me publish mine. She now owns a publishing company where she helps first-time authors get their books into the world.

You influence others by the actions you take. People are watching both what you do and don’t do, and that impacts their own behavior. There’s a quote from the author and speaker Marianne Williamson that, I feel, captures this sentiment: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

By doing the work and living the life you dream of, you use your influence to inspire others to do the work and live the lives they dream of. Be proactive about using your influence for good. When you do, the people around you will be better off because of the actions you’ve taken. The more you engage in the three activities above, the more influence you will exercise, and the more we’ll all grow.

A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

Sonia Thompson is a customer experience strategist, consultant, and speaker. She is the CEO of Thompson Media Group, where she helps companies deliver inclusive and remarkable employee and customer experiences that fuel growth.

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