Does it really mean anything to be an "influencer"? And if so, how can we be successful at a time when public trust is declining?
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A few years ago, it could have been said that we were in the "era of influencers," where influential social media experts had tremendous power to guide narratives, persuade followers, and even motivate purchase decisions.
Today, I would argue, we are entering the era of “post-influencers”, in which falling trust in influencers (and in each other) and the over-saturation of the term lead to backlash and degeneration of the concept.
Does it really mean anything to be an “influencer”? And if so, how can we be successful at a time when public trust is declining?
Content dilution and oversaturation
Let's start by examining the roots of the problem. Accessibility and universal networking are hallmarks of an open Internet; Anyone with an internet connection can create a social media profile, post content, post their thoughts, and try to build an audience. This was powerful in many ways, allowing minorities to gain an audible voice and connect with people we might otherwise have overlooked.
Related: Fixing the ROI Problem With Influencer Marketing
But this has also led to an oversaturation of content. Content marketing is a powerful strategy, and most people realize it by scaling their efforts to produce as much content as possible and reach as many people as possible. Most people are active on social media and eager to increase the size and reach of their audience. The bottom line is that millions of people are crying out to become influencers themselves – which dilutes the meaning of the term.
The abuse of influencers
We also need to acknowledge the presence of influencers trying to abuse their status (and the term associated with it). Initially, some companies and restaurants were willing to offer discounts and freebies to popular social influencers visiting their stores. This quickly became influencers who demanded special treatment everywhere. Right now, companies are demanding more from influencers to prove a point.
This rapid development has given the term "influencer" a negative connotation, leading to eye rolls and derogatory comments when someone tries to claim such a title in real life.
The paradox of being an influencer
There is also some kind of paradox with many influencers. Instead of introducing new ideas, new data or original concepts, they use the power of swarming spirits and echo chambers. Instead of volunteering narratives that challenge mainstream thinking in a particular industry, play it safe and tell people what they want to hear.
In other words, influencers often build a platform based on reinforcing already established opinions. You become a voice of the mood of the masses rather than a leader who leads the masses to a new mood.
It is a sad state of affairs, albeit understandable.
The modern influencer
Of course, influencers still exist in their purest form – as authoritative, influential people who do their best to objectively inform (and possibly entertain) the public. But to stand out in a sea of pseudo-influencers and manipulators, your job will be done for you.
Similar: 8 Ways To Grow Your Audience To A Million Followers
Simple goals for budding influencers
Do you still want to benefit from the advantages of the influencer hood? In this modern, over-saturated environment, you have to work harder than ever.
Stay true to yourself and your industry. Agreeing with mainstream opinions and giving people what they want can get you popularity in the short term, but it doesn't cement your position as a real leader. Stay true to your core principles and your industry as a whole.
Strive for accuracy and honesty. Instead of spreading arbitrary opinions or making unsubstantiated claims, strive for accuracy and honesty – even if that means holding back some of the comments you would otherwise have. It's a slow process, but if you follow this you will eventually earn more respect.
Focus on quality rather than quantity. Accordingly, focus on quality over quantity. It's tempting and easy to keep posting new content – and in some ways it's beneficial too. However, you should never sacrifice the quality or integrity of your work to get more posts.
Do not abuse your position. There are many benefits to being an influencer that you don't have to go through the hassle of other particular benefits. Don't brag about your position or try to get special treatment because of your social media followers.
Engage with others in the right way. Understand the importance of having high integrity and lively debates with others. Your opinion isn't the only thing that matters, even if you are exceptionally well informed. Also, listen to your followers – but don't follow all of their whims.
In a way, influencers are never really going to go away. As a society, we always rely on experts and executives to show us the way and introduce new concepts to us, regardless of the media or channels we use to communicate. What has changed is the number of people aspiring to this position and the requirements to actually achieve it.