Pick One: Popular, Influential or Leader

Continuing on in an informal series of posts about influence inspired by the Fast Company influence project, here’s one with references to many sources, including Wicked. Originally posted on July 9, 2008, the information is updated with new numbers and the addition of a new slant: leadership.

It’s funny. When we work with our clients, we don’t talk about popularity or influence as much as we do about thought leadership and measuring results. Influence comes in when we talk about who we want to connect with and why. How do the three relate?

How about you? Are you influential or popular or a leader?

For Galinda, a Wicked witch it’s all about being popular . . .

When I see depressing creatures
With unprepossessing features
I remind them on their own behalf
To think of celebrated heads of state
Or specially great communicators
Did they have brains or knowledge?
Don’t make me laugh!
They were popular! Please –
It’s all about popular!
It’s not about aptitude
It’s the way you’re viewed
So it’s very shrewd to be
Very very popular like me!

Artist: Kristin Chenoweth
Song: Popular

What does “popular” mean?

1490, “public,” from L. popularis “belonging to the people,” from populus “people.” Meaning “well-liked, admired by the people” is attested from 1608. Popularity “fact or condition of being beloved by the people” is first recorded 1601; popularity contest is from 1941. Popular Front “coalition of Communists, Socialists, and radicals” is from 1936. Popularize “to make a complex topic intelligible to the people” is from 1833.

Source: Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/popular (accessed: July 09, 2008).

How about “influence?”

c.1374, an astrological term, “streaming ethereal power from the stars acting upon character or destiny of men,” from O.Fr. influence “emanation from the stars that acts upon one’s character and destiny” (13c.), also “a flow of water,” from M.L. influentia “a flowing in” (also used in the astrological sense), from L. influentem (nom. influens), prp. of influere “to flow into,” from in- “in” + fluere “to flow” (see fluent). Meaning “exercise of personal power by human beings” is from 1439; meaning “exertion of unseen influence by persons” is from 1588 (a sense already in M.L., e.g. Aquinas). Under the influence “drunk” first attested 1866. Influential “powerful” is from 1734

Source: Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/influence (accessed: July 09, 2008).

How about “Leader”?

1. One that leads or guides.
2. One who is in charge or in command of others.
a. One who heads a political party or organization.
b. One who has influence or power, especially of a political nature.
4. Music
a. A conductor, especially of orchestra, band, or choral group.
b. The principal performer in an orchestral section or a group.
5. The foremost animal, such as a horse or dog, in a harnessed team.
6. A loss leader.
7. Chiefly British The main editorial in a newspaper.
8. leaders Printing Dots or dashes in a row leading the eye across a page, as in an index entry.
9. A pipe for conducting liquid.
10. A short length of gut, wire, or similar material by which a hook is attached to a fishing line.
11. A blank strip at the end or beginning of a film or tape used in threading or winding.
12. Botany The growing apex or main shoot of a shrub or tree.
13. An economic indicator.

Source The American HeritageĀ® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright Ā©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Compare and Contrast: popular and influential and leader

Orange: a popular marketing color

“Popular marketing” gets 70,600 Google results

update: now 85,300

“Influential Marketing” gets 37,300 Google results with two names mentioned most often at the top: Seth Godin and Rohit Bhargava, social media star and Digital Strategist for Ogilvy 360 – could Seth and Rohit also be popular?

update: now 171,000 results and Fast Company now has an Influential Marketing section
“Leadership marketing” gets 105,000 results. Marketing Profs hosts a thought leadership marketing section.

How to get to be popular

Set up a popular social media profile

Learn how to hang out with popular people

Share the spotlight with celebrities

How to be influential

Read Influential Marketing Blog

Time lists their version of the 100 most influential people.

Top 10 Emerging influential blogs project

Social Medial Influence


Tracking Blog Popularity

See how Onalytica measures PR blog influence

How to be a Leader” gets over 33 million results in a Google search. How does being a leader relate to your marketing and PR strategies?

Thanks [again] to Brendan Cooper for the original inspiration for this post – and for clarifying what the Friendly PR Index is and and is not.

Your Turn: Would you rather be popular, influential or a leader?

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