Gone are the days of ruling an online community with only a scepter and your royal lineage. Modern times have proven that there are three paths to gaining influence in your community: likability, reciprocity, and expertise.

The first, likability, is the most common path people take, and it is the most difficult. It is saturated -- most people in your community want to be liked. It is also dependent upon maintaining a positive communication style in even the most difficult of situations (read: patience, verbal smiles). So, if you're aiming to lead the community to great things via likability, you may want to give it a second thought. Or, at the very least, weave some reciprocity philosophy into your community strategy. Take notes along the way, too. You don't want to wake up five months later and realize you've only managed to convert six friendlies.

If likability and reciprocity are such time intensive and tricky ways to gain influence in your community, what is the most direct way to gaining the kind of influence that will allow you to really drive your community's success? Expertise. Note that expertise is an especially effective path toward influence in communities of practice where intellect, experience, generosity, and communication skills combine to make the most potent community influence cocktail on the planet.

What is your style of community management? How do you leverage your own influence to get things done in the community? Let us know. We'd love to hear from you!

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