By Lisa Messinger
Online, "thought leaders" and "social media influencers" are big deals. They are terms that have been coined and represent rarefied people who yield lots of power on the Internet due to benchmarks they've achieved. Sometimes, they give TED Talks (described by the TED organization as "devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks") that have gone viral and attracted millions of views, such as the ones by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg where she famously challenged women to "lean in."
Man or woman, do you "lean in" in your own home, which Reddit defined from Sandberg's movement as, "to be assertive, to move toward a leading, rather than a following, role?" Are you a social media influencer among your family members, who you can persuade due to your credibility, and a thought leader, who is influential and authoritative?
Perhaps, sometimes we're leaning to others to guide us in these roles rather than the deep connections in our own homes that can help make immediate measurable differences. TED Talks, for instance, have led to TEDx Talks, about which the TED organization notes: "In the spirit of TED's mission, 'ideas worth spreading,' the TEDx program helps communities, organizations, and individuals produce TED-style events at the local level. TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently, on a community by community basis, under a free license from TED."
Like others, those who speak at the TEDx local level (which a map shows has flourished worldwide) usually may want to spread not only their words, but their brands. All speakers can provide us with great information, but be sure your perch as a thought leader is assured at home as online activity takes up more time for family members.
I didn't know the difference between the local TEDx talks from the original TED Talks when I first saw it promoted on the website of an acquaintance and watched a few videos on his website taped of him speaking at the regional TEDx talks in his home state. John's* high school public speaking ability showed as he confidently tried to persuade people in the audience exactly what steps would take their careers to the next level.
I recognized the tone. My Facebook account was for work, but John connected with me there and asked to reconnect with me when he would be visiting my state. I thought we might have a connection like we had years before. John, however, spent two hours in the diner where we met forcefully trying to persuade me not to follow the slow-simmer gut instincts I had regarding my next steps at the major cutting-edge media corporation I had been recruited to work for more than five years, including a management promotion, but to follow his commands.
Because he was such a persuasive speaker, I was pondering John's advice for days after he left town. Suddenly, I realized, though, that while I had worked every day since winning a television page position over 3,000 candidates a week after getting out of high school, through my journalism, book authoring, and simultaneous management position at a large media company, though John had a good education and had consulted with businesses in the 1980s through part of the 1990s, he had not worked for a business during the entirety of the new century! Why was I considering listening to his quick judgements on nuanced and sensitive moves I might make? I knew my industry (which he had never worked in) much more than he did, especially when many, including me, and a Pulitzer Prize winner like Thomas L. Friedman in his "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century" declared the entire landscape of "work" had irrevocably changed.
Besides, I also had the real connection of ROBERT Talks, or, I guess since they are regional and local around his kitchen table as my 12-year-old niece also listened, they could be called ROBERTx Talks. This is really just called talking to your wise brother, just as I hope you give your SARAH or MIKE or JILL or GEORGE or MOM or AUNT or GRANDPA Talks to the lucky loved ones connected to you. Over the years, Robert discussed with me the same kind of nuances I was pondering as he was flattered by but declined many offers in a successful entertainment management career because he weighed how it would affect the long-term stability of his wife and children.
These ROBERTx Talks, from my thought leader brother because of the tough thought I saw him give over weeks and sometimes months concerning his career and effects on his family, impressed me so much that, at one point well before meeting with John, when I briefly saw a career coach and he asked me to focus by thinking who I would most want to emulate due to admiring both their business and personal decisions, I immediately knew it was Robert.
Who would you name if asked that question? No matter how many online viral counts you have added to, the answer, of course, will most likely be a true connection and not a virtual one.
*Names and details have been changed.
Lisa Messinger has a graduate certificate in Strategic Communication Management from Purdue University and is a contracted blogger for the university's Master of Science in Communication program. She is a longtime columnist at Creators Syndicate and before that Copley News Service and a manager of editorial quality assurance within iHeartMedia, Inc. She has won multiple national first-place writing awards and is the author of seven nonfiction books, including "My Thin Excuse: Understanding, Recognizing, and Overcoming Eating Disorders" with Merle Cantor Goldberg, LCSW. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.