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Influence vs Fame

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of July 2010 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

“Can you help me to become more Influential?

This was the question I was asked by someone at a recent networking event.

I replied: “Why do you want to be influential?”

He responded: “I want more people to know about me.”

I said: “Why?”

He answered: “Because I’d be more successful if more people knew who I was.”

I asked: “What would you do next if more people knew who you were?”

He stared at me blankly: “I’m not sure…. does it matter?”

I responded: “I don’t think you really want to have influence…. I think you want fame.”

He responded, with a beaming smile: “Can you help me become famous?”

Influence – it’s not just about the size of your network or how many people hear what you say – it’s about your capacity to impact the actions and and opinions of others.

Fame – the state of being widely known or recognized; renown; celebrity.

Fame or Influence – which would you prefer?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Really wise words.
    I guess that most of these gurus these days have fame but a negative influence on those they reach because all they do is scam the customers.

    But the little guys are the one’s who have no fame but could probably have a more positive influence.


  2. Raul Sim says: 07/08/2010 at 12:38 am

    However, those 2 elements work together very often

  3. Influence, definitely. But this is hard work, IMHO, and not attainable in a very short period of time, plus I don’t think that anybody can make you more influential. That part is on you.

  4. I’d prefer influence – I want to impact the way people think. I want them to be willing to challenge beliefs that they’ve accepted without any real thought. I want to be able to inspire action and social change. I want to be able to motivate people to do the right thing and to look at things from a new perspective.
    Now, I really can’t exactly tell you why that means so much to me, but it does. I don’t need the whole world to know me, but if a few people listen to me and their lives are made better by what I have to say – that would bring me the greatest joy.

  5. There’s absolutely no question about it for me. I could care less about fame. The extent that I can be influential, though, drives my ability to help others.

  6. Always influence. Ted Bundy was “famous”.

  7. Whoa great distinction there Darren.

    Of course I prefer Influence, as it is way more powerful than fame.

    Some people really forget the difference between fame and influence, so thanks for pointing out this difference that we may have forgotten.


  8. Hey Darren,

    I like to help other people by inspiring and encouraging them that they are capable of accomplishing a lot more and be forward thinkers. So if I had to put this in either category it would be…Influencer

    Chat with you later…

  9. What should a organization, specifically non-profit organization, strive for?

    Fame and the well-known brand status, or influence and the ability to sway your audience’s actions?

    I guess it’s pretty obvious influence always trumps….or does it?

  10. If I HAD to choose, it’d be Influence. If you’re contribution-minded, you most likely want influence. But if you are significance minded – of course, you’d prefer fame over having influence.

    To be honest, though, I’d rather have contribution. I’d choose to actually impact people lives for the better. I mean, hitler had influence.

    Influence isn’t always a good thing. There are different levels of influence.

    And, I guess, as a matter of personal preference, people will place different meanings upon the word ‘influence’.

    I love your work, Darren.Thank You for iall that you do :)


  11. I prefer first one. Using influence I think, we can get fame

  12. Influnce over fame, definitely. Though I would take fame, I’d use it to gain influence, through which I would attempt to gain more students/clients in order to improve their practice of the arts I teach.

  13. The few people who know me say I somehow affect their behaviour :) definitely not famous, but I think I can consider myself as influential within my inner circle: I bring the worst out of the people I annoy :P.

  14. Influence.
    You can be famous for doing stupid things and people may not respect you. Being famous often means you are in the spotlight and it is harder to get things done whereas you can be influencial and ‘behind the scenes’ and achieve a lot more.

  15. I had to take an honest look at myself for this one.

    Influence is most definitely where I stand. While I may not have 1000s of screaming fans, I do have clients and friends who I have had a great impact on in my short entrepreneurial career. The excitement I feel over positive feedback or a raving testimonial is more rewarding than the money I receive… seriously!

    Does that sound corny? I don’t think it would to most of the readers here because we are all trying to make a difference in our respective circles of influence.

  16. Great points, Darren.

    Influence, if I had a choice, but I prefer to engage, not to steal Brian’s term – I just like the interaction and exchange of ideas that flow around the web/social media sphere/whatamacallit’s.

  17. I prefer influence because when targeted correctly, there’s a great potential to help others achieve their goals and live a fuller life.

  18. I think a person who is Famous can easily be Influential but a Influential guy need not be Famous or put in other words he has to work for it increasing his zone of Influence. But being Influential gives more satisfaction and contentment than acquiring Fame, so I would prefer Influence over Fame.

    Also a person who has acquired enough Fame then tries to be influential impacting on the actions and opinions of others whereas a Influential person has less intention to be Famous as more of his concentration is on providing value to his network of followers and making them listen to his words.

  19. I don’t know. Influence without fame is a bit shady. It’s what women who were anti-suffragist claimed to have, as in, we don’t need to vote, we can influence our husband’s vote. What about recognition? That’s neither quite fame nor influence. It’s being known for your influence. I’d like some of that please. Hold, on. That means I’ve actually got to do something that can be be recognised first, right? Ok, back to work then!

  20. Hey Darren,

    I would prefer influence over fame.
    Thanks for sharing.


  21. Influence is tough. While I would rather have it over fame, it is also a lot of resonsibility.

  22. my conclusion is :

    fame is just one way direction
    famous man can affect people who though he is famous

    influence is two ways direction
    influential man can affect any kind of people
    and people can affect him too, whether will make him better or worse

    that’s my conclusion :-)

  23. Can we be both :-) … fameluence

    I’d personally go with influence. It’s more work, but if done right the fame would follow.

  24. Influence is great but fame helps you take that message to a wider audience so the two can go hand in hand.

    One of my colleagues and I chatted about this a while back when our books first hit the market but the discussion concerned fame and fortune–which came first.

    So, I am wondering–what do you think comes first–fame (notoriety) or influence or are they totally separate.

  25. SherrieD says: 07/08/2010 at 2:38 am

    Definately food for thought, but I want to be influencial and be paid well for it.

  26. The famous are influential, but I don’t think the opposite is true!

    I’m not sure I’d want to be known as either!

  27. I think fame can help with the launch of a website, leveraging 100,000 “Twitter Followers” can be a big boost to the early stages of a new on-line business.

    The problem with fame is that it fades, and the money fades with it (unless you invested wisely at the peak of your fame ;]).

    Influence can help others in a positive way. If you can learn skills that influence people, then you have a solution for people. If 1,000 people want that solution then you have a business and a future in that field.

    Awesome Post!,


  28. I’d personally have to go with Influence. I personally believe if you start to be a great influence that over time your network growth will follow.

    I find it very difficult not to be influenced by someone with great information that helps me personally grow.

  29. I think many younger people prefer fame (in childhood, teens, and 20’s). I think influence comes to those who don’t specifically seek fame, but instead work at accomplishing something to make the world a better place. People like Bill Gates and Donald Trump come to mind, as do many teachers, who are not famous, but who have had tremendous influence on countless generations who have passed through their classrooms.

  30. Definitely Influence. Fame for the sake of fame is pointless.

    Some thoughts:

    As @Sandrine said, lots of influence without fame is a bit shady. People like to know who’s influencing them.

    If you’re very famous, you will be influential. People will care about what you do. If you don’t care about the influence you have you can do a lot of damage.

    People who are famous and want to use that fame to influence others have a lot of power. For good or evil.

    Even if you’ve only influenced a few people you can still do a lot of good (or bad).

    How famous you are depends a lot on luck. Your ability to influence people depends almost entirely on you. If you interact with others you automatically have an influence on them.

    From what I’ve heard, fame can be an empty reward and quite a bit of a hassle. Positively influencing someone else is almost always rewarding.

    So yeah, it seems like a no brainer to go with influence as the more important of two. Accept and respect fame if it comes to you, but shoot for having a greater positive influence.

  31. I would choose influence, definitely. Fame without influence is useless as a blogger, or a business person. However, fame can bring influence, depending on the business you’re in.

    Mashable is a good example of a case where fame can fuel influence based on good content. Pete Cashmore became famous because of his influence, and his fame has improved his influence, as I see it ;)

  32. I would suspect that wishing for fame or influence is not necessarily a required step for attaining either.

    And it may be easier to become famous or influential by being unusually focused on something else entirely.

  33. Not to be viewed as a simple case of semantics, eh? Certainly, the allure of possessing influence is like a siren’s song. The fact that it’s most often earned – through one’s word, deed, or comportment is one of those “short cuts” some want to make.

    I wonder, does one’s influence rise at the rate of their generosity and thoughtfulness?

  34. It’s a good question. Influence is my only answer. I always prefer to be able to help people succeed. At the same time I like it better slightly under the radar. No need to be famous, but a definite need to be helpful.

  35. I’d prefer influence (of course) but doI think you need a degree of fame as well. You can’t influence people who haven’t heard about you.

  36. Can’t I just have both? *laughs*

    Honestly, though, I don’t think I’d like to be famous, really. I’m fairly private and like it that way.

    So I would have to vote for influential.

  37. Hey Darren,
    Influence or Fame is a good question. I would personally prefer influence. Maybe influence is the wrong word – I’d rather replace it with respected.
    That done, if you are respected, people will come to you for either help or advice. I take great pleasure in knowing I can help people and am always humbled when people come to me for advice.
    With fame, I think you are merely a figure head that people aspire to be, but there is no substance to it. They think that with fame comes great happiness and all the answers – that is seldom (if ever?) the case. Maybe that’s a little harsh on my part, I’d be interested to hear other comments.

  38. I want to gain fame to become influential. That way I get my readers attention and then try to have them make a difference.

  39. I’d want a bit of column A and column B, personally. <3

  40. Darren,

    Great catch on this. You have to give it to this guy that at least he was honest, some people might worry about what others think of them and say what they think someone wants to hear, but he didn’t.

    When you think of famous people v. influential people and compare that to who has affected your life, I don’t think there’s a question. Meaning, movie stars, professional athletes and the like have not made me want to be a better person. It’s the influencers–those who might not always be in the spotlight–who have made the difference in my life and that’s why I would say influencer more so, because to me that’s who makes the difference!


  41. to clarify – I’m not sure that I’m anti-fame and I don’t think that the two need be mutually exclusive. I think famous people can be influential also and influential people can become famous for their influence…..

    Just been thinking a lot about this lately and thought I’d think it out loud to see what others thought.

  42. Influence, obviously. Famous people get stalked. I wonder if anybody ever stalked Seth Godin.

  43. Certainly influence is more interesting than fame, but it is also harder to earn and keep. To be famous all we have to do is attract attention (which is admittedly often difficult, but can happen more or less at random), but be be influential we must engage in the important work of a) having something of value to say, and b) earning the respect of an audience.

    The point implied by your post is a good one. Often times we are inclined to be more concerned with becoming famous than becoming influential. This desire is borne out of selfishness rather than a desire to serve society, and it often leads to us becoming neither famous nor influential.

    Thanks for the important reminder to focus on having something of value to say rather than simply shouting to attract attention to myself.

  44. Influence. It’s not about how many people know my name and respect me, it’s about the right people knowing my name and respecting me.

    However this is only MY view.

    Many other people equate fame with influence – so to build influence with them it is necessary to also build fame (broad awareness).

    The media, for example, has difficulty understanding the difference – they often quote famous peoples’ views despite those views being poorly considered and not being influential in the right corridors.

  45. Influence for sure. I’d love if I could circumvent fame altogether to be honest, although I think if you have any influence it leads to at least a little bit of fame/recognition. But I love the idea of just being able to work on things I care about without having a huge audience looking over my shoulder or feeling that I don’t have any privacy. Sort of a silly thing to worry about though, I don’t think you can easily stumble into being famous unless you actually want it.

  46. this reminds me of when I was asked the question in a job interview would you prefer to be respected or liked…

    I would prefer influence as fame can be very vacuous and fleeting…

    Influence would mean you have something important to say, where as fame well Paris Hilton enough said…

    I do think it’s about how you think about these questions and that you do want a bit of of both it’s OK…

  47. As I was reading this, I was thinking about those with millions of followers on Twitter. What good is fame when you have no influence at all.

    Whether it’s a mailing list, Twitter followers or Facebook fan pages, it all applies. Doesn’t matter what the number is. What matters is, can you influence the people?

  48. Famous people often fail to realize the amount of influence they carry, and will influence their following in the wrong manner. Never realizing the damage they have done.
    Influential people realize the gift they carry, and become famous through their actions.

    I would rather have influence, and help guide my audience towards their goals.

  49. Hey Darren,

    You are always right. Fame is not much better than influence. There are several cases when famous people fail to influence on others.

    It is good to be influential rather than being a celebrity. I think both these terms are somewhat related.

  50. I would prefer influence. Because, I think “fame” the things happens after influance. If I would be influancial I must be famous.
    Eunus Hosen

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