The 12 Universal Laws of Social Media Influence

January 30, 2020 Social Influence no comments

Wonder how social media influencers build their brands on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube?

The answer may surprise you. (Hint: it isn’t about taking drunk selfies in your underwear.)

Like any other discipline, building your online influence requires a lot of hard work.

From keeping up with the latest social media trends to maintaining a consistent calendar of content, life as an Blogger, Instagrammer, YouTuber or LinkedIn influencer isn’t just a bed of roses.

Despite its challenges, building your online influence and personal brand can be hugely rewarding. Beyond differentiating yourself from the hoi polloi, a distinct personal brand also helps you to attract plump jobs and business opportunities.

But how can you do so if you’re new to the game? What steps should you take?

The answer lies in follow these 12 Universal Laws of Social Media Influence (and yes, they’re all ‘R’s):

  1. Research
  2. Reach
  3. Relevance
  4. Resonance
  5. Realness
  6. Reciprocity
  7. Rarity
  8. Repackaging
  9. Rigour
  10. Ritual
  11. Return On Effort (ROE)
  12. Reputation

Let us dive into each of these laws and see if it resonates with you.

#1 The Law of Research

Before you decide to stake your turf on any specific category or domain, consider finding out what the market and competition is like.

Are there many people doing what you intend to do? Is there demand for your type of content? What are the best practices out there?

To ascertain demand and competition, you can use SEO keyword research tools like Google Trends, Ubersuggest or to suss out interest in your topic. You can also check out influencer lists to size up your competition.

#2 The Law of Reach

Do you have an existing rolodex of name cards? What about the phone numbers and email addresses in your possession? Are you able to reach out to these folks and get them to follow you on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest?

While the number of fans and followers in your network isn’t as important these days, it is still important to have a decent number of connections. Having a following helps you to benefit from the network and multiplier effects that social media may bring.

#3 The Law of Relevance

This is so important, yet so often neglected. Especially when it comes to solopreneurs and start-up business owners desperate for attention.

Riding on the latest newsjacking phenomenon or viral sensation can be an effective way to get your brand out. However, repeatedly creating cute, funny, or emotionally stirring content that has no bearing to what you are about will not bear fruit in the long-term.

#4 The Law of Resonance

Perhaps the more important point here is resonance. Go beyond temporary flings. Aim for long-lasting relationship building with your social network.

The Law of Resonance can also be manifested by the reactions, likes, comments, shares and clicks on your posts. Assess what works and what doesn’t. Which content types gets the most engagement in your network? Do more of the same.

#5 The Law of Realness

Authenticity is the latest buzzword in personal branding but what does it really mean? Here’s my layman’s interpretation:

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say
  • Be consistent in how you project yourself online and offline
  • Do not be afraid to show your humanity (while being mindful about oversharing your personal life)
  • Never buy fake fans, likes, comments, shares and clicks (and here’s why too)

Note that being real doesn’t mean that you should be rude, boorish or nasty just because you feel like it. While showing some skin is ok, baring your whole soul online isn’t the wisest thing to do.

#6 The Law of Reciprocity

You scratch my back and I scratch yours. This principle of reciprocity works magically on social media.

Being humans, we love the dopamine kicks that come with people liking, commenting, or sharing our posts. Chances are that you’ll appreciate the person who does it, and may seek to return that favour.

CAUTION: Do not practice “comment spam” by cutting and pasting the same comment across 10s or hundreds of posts. Doing so may get your account penalised. Just be real (see #5 above).

#7 The Law of Rarity

No, the world does not need another food blogger. Or another fashion Instagrammer.

What may be of value though, would be B2B influencers in unique (yet profitable) niches like Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), robotics, e-commerce, digital business, law, healthcare, blockchain, or other upcoming areas in technology.

Or maybe you can occupy a hyper-targeted micro-niche that may have a small yet ardent fan base. This can be in specific diets/ lifestyles (eg vegan or ketogenic diets), extreme sports (eg rock climbing or white water rafting), or unique hobbies (eg air-brush model painting).

#8 The Law of Repackaging

Creating content is hard work. I should know, being a blogger since September 2005 until now – a staggering 13 years!

To relieve yourself of the tedium and toil of content creation, consider the following tactics which I use:

  • Review your list of articles and posts periodically
  • Take up an old post, brush away the dust, and update it with more current information
  • Re-share your article and give it a new spin
  • Alternatively, repackage your content into a different format. For example, you can turn a blog article into an infographic. Or a video into a blog article.
  • If you’ve got hardcopy content (Annual Reports or newsletters that nobody reads), see if you can rehash some of the content there and turn them into an article, infographic, emails, or social media posts

#9 The Law of Rigour

Blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. Neither is shooting a fancy 15 second ‘Story’ on Instagram. Or shooting, editing and producing a YouTube video.

To become a credible influencer or thought leader, you need to have the writing, shooting, and production chops to create quality content. This requires weeks, months and even years of practice and refinement.

Which brings us to our next Law…

#10 The Law of Ritual

To build your personal brand online, you need to make content production a regular habit. This could mean writing and posting something every single day. Or shooting a photo and uploading it with a clever caption. Or recording and producing an interview for a podcast every week.

The best influencers don’t just produce content on the spur-of-the-moment (though there is nothing wrong with that.) They schedule time in their day for content production. In other words, it becomes sort-of like a second job…

#11 The Law of ROE (Return-On-Effort)

Now if being a social media influencer takes effort and time, you need to consider a couple of things:

  • The time you spend creating content, responding to fans/ followers, and connecting with other influencers
  • The impact of your content efforts in building your brand, generating leads, or triggering sales
  • The long-term sustainability of what you’re doing online (and whether it is viable enough for you to quit your day job)
  • The sacrifices that you need to make to be an influencer with a strong personal brand

PS – If you’re new to how you can measure your social media ROI, consider reading my article here.

#12 The Law of Reputation

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to build a positive reputation for yourself online.

Reputation is the fuel that keeps your personal brand alive. It is the glue that holds everything together.

To maintain a pristine online reputation and build a brand that people can trust, you need to behave with integrity. Do not over-promise and under-deliver. Do not make claims that you cannot fulfill.

I know. It can be difficult. Especially when so many other micro-influencers around you are puffing up their numbers.

However, I believe that honesty is the best policy. As is behaving in an ethical and transparent fashion.


Straddling the entire spectrum of social influence, the 12 Universal Laws of Influence provides a good yardstick for you to build your online brand.

Use these principles to guide how you behave online. Or create your own checklist of dos and don’ts based on these 12 rules.

Are there other ‘laws’ that you’ll recommend? I’d love to read your ideas.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.

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