About a year ago, I realized I had been wrong about something my whole life.

I was briefly passing through my hometown after 2 years on the road. Having just returned from a 6-month stint in the Middle East — fulfilling a childhood dream of learning Arabic — I decided to catch up with an old friend over coffee. I knew she’d ask questions about the photos I’d posted and blog updates I’d made during my travels, and I was eager to talk about them. Then the lightbulb went off.

She didn’t care.

She spent the entire 2 hours talking about her birthday party. The lesson finally clicked:

Focus on being interested IN people, not only interesting TO people.  It’s a well-known principle that applies to the digital world as much as it applies to the physical one.

Too many of us devote energy worrying about HOW to be interesting. We need to give more interviews. Meet more people. Write more books. Post more selfies.

We focus on doing, discovering, and achieving more. That’s the only way to influence people, right?

Wrong. There’s a fundamental gap in that logic: You can’t influence people if they’re not willing to listen to you in the first place. It doesn’t matter how smart, funny, innovative, adventurous, trendy, or successful you look online. Your message is useless if it falls on deaf ears.

So how do you get people to listen to you? Focus on THEM. Not on YOU.

Most of us already apply this concept in our daily interactions with others, but we fail to realize that the same lesson applies to the digital realm as well. Let’s fix that.

Try these 6 techniques to develop an online audience, earn their attention, and as a result: Increase Your Digital Influence.   


1. Join The Conversation

Dominating online conversations. It’s a rookie mistake that you need to avoid. You may think you have important wisdom to share. You may think you have helpful advice to give. You probably do, but your ability to influence directly corresponds to the receptiveness of your audience. The concept is simple: just like you must work to put food on the table, you must also work to develop an online audience.

Instead of using your social channels to self-promote, try joining the conversation. Find online forums, respond to people in the comments, engage with others in your niche and ask questions.

When you get others to do the talking, you immediately start building rapport with them. Neuroscience studies show that talking about ourselves triggers sensations of pleasure. Some people will even sacrifice money to talk about themselves. So make it easy for your audience to open up and talk by showing interest in them.

  • How did you end up working where you are today?
  • What are you looking forward to this week?
  • Who do you think is the luckiest person you’ve ever met?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What’s something you wish more people knew about you?
  • What’s the most valuable thing you own?
  • What did you want to be when you were little?

Psssst! Let the other person sell themselves because you know that your time will come.

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2. Say Their Name

We love the sound of our own names. Neuroscience proves this one too. Just like talking about ourselves gives us a buzz, so does hearing our names. You can do this on your social profiles by tagging people in statuses, DM’ing them, or even just posting a simple hello on their profiles. It will make them feel good, especially when they hear their name being called from an influencer.

3. Speak Their Language

In the least creepy way possible, you need to know your audience better than their own mothers.

  • What’s their average day like?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What’s the first thing they think about when they wake up?
  • What makes them tick?
  • What ignites them?  

Think about it in terms of music. People love songs with lyrics they can relate to. The artist knows me. I am the person in the song. This is exactly what I’m dealing with right now.

Clever artists don’t have to call out their fans by name, they just need to speak their fans’ language. They develop an audience by knowing what messages resonate with them and conversely, what messages don’t.

What makes your ears perk up? What makes your head turn? Why do you hit replay? Now answer that for your audience. Read and respond to comments in both closed groups and open forums. This will spark conversations and allow you to fine-tune your message. Use those conversations as inspiration to write and publish content that speaks directly to this audience.

4. Give Them A Reward

The reward is the value your message provides.

Nobody cares about you. They care about what you can do for them. When you buy a book, do you really care about the author or the syntax they used? No. You care about how the book will help you get what you want.

The same rules apply to your blog (or LinkedIn or Medium profiles). Nobody cares about it. They only care about how it can help them achieve their goals.

Another way to think about it is this: If passion is your message, then purpose is the reward. You need to think about how you will transform your wisdom and expertise into meaningful action that your audience can take. How can you translate your passion into purpose?

Influential people solve problems. Digital influencers do this online by giving away valuable content. What problems can your passion help solve?

RELATED: Why You Should Not Become An Influencer

5. Be Emotional

This relies on a technique known as anchoring. You want to anchor your audience to a specific emotional state whenever they hear your name.

Emotional anchoring in the digital age is a fancy way of talking about your online reputation.

What should your audience feel when they think of you? What emotions do you want your audience to associate with you?

You want them to feel good! Gratitude. Positivity. Understanding. You should express these emotions to your audience by producing uplifting and valuable content that inspires them.

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6. Try Self-Deprecating Humor

When in doubt, self-deprecate. This is actually a secret technique that helps build rapport offline, and it can be done online by posting memes that make fun of yourself or simply poking fun of yourself in a comment.

Perfect people are hard to be around, yet social media makes it far too easy to give off the perfect vibe. Learn to be comfortable with a little self-deprecating humor. What are your flaws? What mistakes have you made in the past? What are some of your biggest failures? What are some problems you encounter on a day-to-day or weekly basis?

Caution: it’s easy to misinterpret humor online, and you’re best to avoid using it in most situations. With self-deprecation, you’re not trying to convey humor as much as you are vulnerability. You need to be real with yourself and you need to be real with your audience. People take advice from those they trust. If you feel like an unrelatable stranger, don’t expect others to trust you. You don’t have to reveal your whole self online, just be transparent when you need to be.

Next Steps:

Digital influence needs a foundation. These 6 tricks will help you build that foundation by developing your online audience and earning their attention. You can begin to influence once the foundation is built.

RELATED: Why Flow is the First Step In Building Your Platform