If you define influence by the size of your Klout score, you can stop reading this right now.
If you believe influence is driven by the creation of a relationship between two parties, where one sees the other as truly knowledgeable about a particular product or service, then let’s talk about the science behind that influence.
Establishing influence is a multi-step process that moves the influenced through four key stages.
They move from awareness of the influencer, to knowing the influencer, to liking the influencer and finally finishing with preference for the influencer’s advice and counsel.
And, as an influencer, you’re going to earn your long-term living in that last stage of the relationship.
But you’re not going to get there by simply writing or talking about a particular subject matter. Instead, you need a strategic plan anchored in real science.
The law of propinquity
The law of propinquity states that the greater the physical (or psychological) proximity between people, the greater the chance that they will form friendships or romantic relationships.
The theory was first crafted by psychologists Leon Festinger, Stanley Schachter, and Kurt Back in what came to be called the Westgate studies conducted at MIT.
In the study, the strongest friendships developed between students who lived next to each other on the same floor, or between students who lived on different floors, if one of those students lived near the stairways.
In non-scientific terms, the Westgate Studies found that the frequency of contact between students was a strong indicator of future friendship formation.
The propinquity effect
There are two dimensions to propinquity, and they play different roles in marketing strategy.
There is physical propinquity and psychological propinquity. For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on psychological propinquity, as it most directly relates to creating influence through content creation.
Propinquity theory tells us that the more often people see your content, the better they get to know you. This makes sense. Each time someone is exposed to your content, they are interacting with you, your thoughts and beliefs. This leads to a feeling of knowing you, because it mirrors how we get to know people in the real world.
Repeated exposure to your content moves them from simply knowing you to actually liking you. Again, this mirrors the making friends context we’re all familiar with in the offline world.
The more we interact with people we know, the more we tend to like them — which has been repeatedly proven in numerous studies of romantic relationship formation.
Because they like you, they consume more of your content. As they do, a portion of the audience will find a common ground with your beliefs. This intersection of your beliefs, interests, or personality and your audience’s creates Psychological Propinquity. And that is what leads to preference and influence.
An important note: studies also showed that being a jerk invalidates the propinquity effect. If research subjects didn’t like an initial interaction with a person, subsequent interactions didn’t lead the subjects to change their mind and begin liking the person.
Because of the power of propinquity to create influence, it’s not something you want to leave to chance.
Instead, strategically map out a propinquity platform and then fill that platform with high-quality content. The process of creating a propinquity platform is a bit too complex for a single post, but here are four steps that you can use to begin the process today.
- Catalog all the places your desired audience turns to for information — specifically information associated with the product or service you sell. If you’re paying attention to your audience’s world, this should be a fairly easy exercise and produce a list of obvious online and offline media, conference, and trade-show options.
- Begin finding those platforms that you’re not familiar with yet. Use a keyword generator tool to find the terms your audience uses to seek out relevant information. Then conduct searches on Google using those terms. Visit the sites you find on the first couple of pages and look for signs of active communities of readers.
- Listen to your desired audience on social media channels — Twitter makes this especially easy. Specifically, you’re looking for posts where they share a link. Create a list of sites they share, and look for correlations.
- Find relevant Twitter chats and participate in them. When the chat is over, scroll back through the chat and create a Twitter list of all the participants. Then follow that list for a few weeks — and again, look for tweets that contain links.
These last two are especially useful when you’re trying to create influence in a new industry where you don’t have extensive direct experience. Provided your target audience uses Twitter, these last two steps can help you quickly understand the key websites favored by your audience.
Your goal is to find online sites that your desired audience turns to for helpful information. Then determine if any of these sites will allow you to guest post or create content for their use.
By doing so, you will create multiple propinquity touches against your prospects. You’ll be the person “they see everywhere” and come to associate with category or product expertise.
The benefits of propinquity marketing
By mapping (then managing) your prospects’ progression through the various “Propinquity Points,” you can exponentially increase the frequency of your content impressions against a specific audience over a shorter time period.
This higher frequency of impressions — combined with the halo effect of your content appearing within already-trusted content channels — will more quickly move the audience through the propinquity process.
Do you have other ideas for creating a trusted propinquity platform? Let me know in the comments below …
About the Author: Tom Martin is a 20+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and digital gadgets. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale. Get more from Tom on Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn.