Here is the most critical piece of information to all marketing and leadership efforts: everyone intends to do something next.

The New York Times reported earlier last year that Facebook has about 1/16th of your waking hours every day. Because of this, it is safe to assume that a vast majority of those on the internet are visiting your site from a social platform or on their way to a social platform (often both). Think of it this way: your visitors intend to do something next, and the “next” is Facebook. They do not plan to stay on your site. They don’t expect to call or e-mail. They intend to engage whatever content brought them to you and then go back to Facebook. So, what should you ask those visitors to do on your site? Great brands make themselves a part of what their customers plan. In this case, they create content that people want to share, make it easy to share, and engage them on social channels when they leave.

The problem most of us encounter when it comes to influencing others is we assume it is all about deciding what we want and then getting others to do it. The reality is this rarely works. Influence is a paradox. It’s about becoming influential — becoming a brand or a person worth following. To accomplish this, we must ask not what we want but what our audience wants. What are they trying to accomplish?

I often hear UX and marketing folks ask, “what do we want people to do next?” I fall into this trap as well, but it’s not the right question. The right question is, “what is my audience already planning to do next?” We need to be part of that plan. We need to create as little friction as possible to including ourselves in the plans of our audience.

We don’t tell people what their goals and aspirations are, we align ourselves with them. We help them achieve the desires they already have. We help them solve the problems they need to fix today. We make ourselves a part of their day. If we want them to take action with our brand, we don’t try to change their behavior patterns. We try to make ourselves a part of their behavior patterns. Everyone plans to do something next. After they read your blog post. After they visit your website. After they hear your lecture. Everyone is anticipating what comes next. The audience has plans, habits, and goals. It’s rare we can change those.

If our audience views us this way — a part of what’s next for them — then we gain influence. That’s when they will begin to interact with us further. These are the brands and leaders that we want to follow. We want to be influenced by things we perceive as worth following. We apply this worthiness to those that will help us achieve our goals, habits, and desired outcomes.

Ask yourself today, “what does my audience plan to do next, and how can I be a helpful part of that plan?”

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