Influence on others is something to strive for, whether you’re looking to make changes in the world or marketing a business. No one has yet found a reliable way to measure influence, but there are two important qualities you can work on to build your influence. Without either clout or credibility, you probably have no influence on your target audience or market.

Let’s forget for the moment that those krazy kids have created Klout and Kred to stroke your social media ego and self-confidence. Let’s ignore the fact that I was recently informed that I rank in the top 10% in Kred. (Really?) Let’s consider, instead, the C-words.

“Clout” was, many centuries ago, a verb. It meant “to strike, especially with the hand; cuff.” One did not have clout, one clouted others. Over time its predominant usage transformed into a noun connoting persuasive social power. If you have clout, you’re more likely to get your way. You’re a mover and a shaker. The President has clout. Jay-Z has clout. The Pope has clout. Individuals with clout in the social media world can start up new companies with no revenue model. Evan Williams helped fund Twitter because he’d gained clout from inventing and selling Blogger.

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Larry Ellison

People with clout can impact others’ behavior. They can get the maitre’d to seat them at the best table in the fancy restaurant without a reservation. Clout gets you in free to conferences. It influences people via power, not information. It has limitations, usually affecting a limited community or subculture, because clout primarily serves its possessor. Larry Ellison’s tremendous clout, for instance, does not influence me at all.

Cred, in case you missed it, is shorthand for credibility. If you’ve earned cred, people are more likely to believe you, to trust what you say. One earns it by compiling a record of truth telling and correct judgments. Street cred is earned through doing and learning. You don’t have to have been right, but by being wrong, you’ve  learned how things actually work – you’ve paid your dues.

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Betty White

If you have cred, people buy your books, invite you to present at conferences, listen to and learn from you. You can be an authority on a topic without having any clout. If you have cred in the social media profession, people take what you say as the truth, whether or not they act on it. Your opinions are respected even by people who don’t agree with your viewpoint.

So which of these attributes fit you best? Would you rather aim to influence others through exercising the power you’ve accumulated, leveraging your wealth or position to affect others’ behaviors? Or would you rather establish yourself as a trusted source, a subject matter expert, an authority or an honest brand?

The authors of the Clue Train Manifesto wrote about the self-evident truth that “markets are conversations,” and influenced the thinking of millions of Web users then and to this day. Steve Jobs invented and brought to market the iPad, putting his clout behind a new device that, rather than serve an existing need, broke the ground for whole new channels of communication. He gained credibility by following one instinctive success with another and another.

So, returning to K-land, you can look beneath the surface of Klout and Kred and see that simplistic metrics of one’s association with others through social platforms is not necessarily reflective of your influence. Influence is best indicated by what others do and think after hearing from or about you. Ask yourself who has influenced your behavior in the past and is doing so in the present See how that matches up with your connections in the social world of the Web.

To get social media to work in your favor, you or your brand must have clout or cred or both.