Leadership is about influence, and influence is about power. What are the attributes that can make you influential in the online community? Social psychology provides insight into such attributes by distinguishing among five types of power.
- Coercive power. This means the power to punish. It can typically be used in an online community by a moderator, who can ban an account or certain comments.
- Reward power. As there are many kinds of rewards, this power can be used in a variety of ways, ranging from a positive comment to financial reward.
- Legitimate power. This is the power granted by some kind of authority. On a social networking site, it normally belongs to the organization operating the site, which can define the rules to be followed and execute them.
- Expert power. Extremely relevant in the online world, expert power comes from experience or education. If you are recognized as an expert, people will count with your opinion and are more likely to follow your leadership.
- Referent power. This is probably the most important type of power in the online communities. Referent power comes from admiration or respect. In the online world without hierarchies and boundaries people with referent power are the most influential ones. This power comes from character, the values and integrity that a person represents.
So now that you know the types of power, how do you go about executing the influence in the online world?
First, you need to build relationships with your potential followers. People need to know you in order to recognize your expertise or respect you. Second, you need to build trust. Before someone follows you, they need to believe in your intentions. Third, be attractive and become friends with your potential followers (see my previous post about attraction). We are all more likely to be influenced by our friends than foes.
Do you have any examples of how power can be used in online communities? Please share them in the comments!