What Does It Mean To Be An Influencer

Dispelling the myths of on-line influencer

I have made the lists of top Thought Leaders and Global Influencers and I question the validity of those claims. As blogger, author of over 500 magazine and journal articles, and two books I think I have as much a right to these titles as anyone, but frankly I think its all bullshit. Yes bullshit. A fresh, steaming, pile of bullshit.

I realize that many of you may be shocked by my bovine scatological description and despite your visceral reaction to me mentioning animal excrement I probably didn’t change your opinion on whether or not “influencer” is a legitimate appellation.

So let me support my assertions with facts:

  1. Scarce few so-called influencers are in anyway considered in most major decisions. In fact, I read a recent study (I don’t remember where, but if it’s that important to you Google it to find the source) that found that we are most influenced by people we know PERSONALLY. Most of us aren’t swayed by the opinions of celebrities. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like Donald Trump MORE because Bruce Willis supports him, I like Bruce Willis LESS. So when I go to the polls the candidate and his or her position is what matters to me not celebrity endorsements. I guess in a way this reverse influence is influence, but companies seldom pay for people to hate their products.
  2. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et el is not real world. Many of the publications that rank thought leaders and influencers do so by using the number of Twitter followers you have. The top “influencer” on a thought leader website has 400,000 Twitter followers; an impressive amount to be sure, until you consider that he is following 87,500 people. This breaks down to a ration of just over 4:1. Now compare that to someone who follows 40 people but has 500 followers. This person has a ratio of 12.5 to one. The smaller pool of followers is more likely to be influenced by this person than someone with 100,000 followers but a 2:1 ratio of followers to people followed.
  3. It’s about quality, not quantity. The sun has set on social media in terms of numbers equating to influence. People “hide” their posts from Facebook friends because they are too cowardly to unfriend someone. Twitter is rife with followers for purchase, quid quo pro followers (you follow everyone on this list and they will follow you back), and bots that are nothing more than data mining program. The information age killed privacy. You have to take numbers with a grain of salt. Whose opinion would you be more likely to respect the person who is a captain of industry or a national political figure or the guy who is 35, living in his mom’s basement, and spends his days tweeting about pro wrestling? In the case of the former you might not agree with the opinion, but are likely to at least be interested in what the person has to say on a topic. In the case of the latter, your interest is probably limited to pro wrestling and basement domiciles.
  4. All influence is not created equal. The degree of influence depends on the size of the niche. I blog about worker safety and I write about various aspects of business, relative to topics like parenting, NASCAR, politics, or celebrity gossip my niche is incredibly small. I lack both standing and credibility to talk about NASCAR and anyone influenced by my opinion of one driver’s prowess over another is hopelessly misguided. On the other hand, someone expert in knitting probably isn’t someone who is going to sway you politically.
  5. Unless you get paid to use products or services and blog about it you probably not an influencer. Companies (Subway being a notable exception — seen any commercials featuring Jared lately?) are particularly adept at sussing out people who have true influence and they will pay them to wear their clothes, eat their foods, drive their cars, etc. With these rarefied individuals, companies find that people are truly influenced by the person’s association with their products and services.

In the final estimation, it is what change is effected; this can only be the true measure of influence. Just running your mouth — as I tend to do ad nauseam — is nothing more than noise unless it effects real and lasting change. Accolades and lists mean nothing if I can’t reach you, convince you of my beliefs, and get you to answer the call to action. Otherwise it’s just an intellectual circle jerk.

Written by

Author of “I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business” and “Lone Gunman. Rewriting the Handbook on Workplace Violence Prevention” and “Blood on my hands

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