I just did my taxes and realized that last year I made a substantial amount of money from my social media platforms. Does that make me an influencer?
I cringe a little whenever I hear anyone refer to me as one. Why?
It all boils down to this one simple notion:
Nobody is influential for no reason.
If you look at the history of influential people around the world they all have one thing. They have a following that admire them and they earn that admiration not for being born beautiful or rich but for work that they do . For example:
- Actors/Actresses/Talk Show hosts – Leonardo DiCaprio is influential because people love his work as an actor. From watching his movies they build a bond with him through the characters he play. He uses motion pictures or video to reach people and build bonds with them and that’s why he’s influential today. Even Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton who are famous for doing nothing are influential today because of their TV shows they’ve had now and in the past. The internet’s equivalent of that is YouTubers. Popular YouTubers like Casey Neistat or Pewdiepie are influential because they build bonds with their followers over video.
- Musicians – People love music and we build an affinity for musicians that sing or write songs that speak to us. Songs that we sing along to. The online equivalent of this are independent musicians on YouTube that have built their very own following and their very own community.
- Writers/authors – We follow JK Rowling and George R.R. Martin because we love what they write. The modern equivalent of this is bloggers or journalists with an online presence.
- Athletes – We watch them in games. We admire them for their talent and skill and how they can play football or golf way better than we can.
If there’s one thing you can notice about these 4 areas above is that they all provide for a medium in which that one person can engage you uninterrupted for at least a few minutes at a time. That allows a bond to develop between you and Lorde when you listen to her music or you an JK Rowling when you read Harry Potter. None of them built a bond with you just because you saw their short Instagram update among a stream of other photos you see in your day.
So what does that mean? It comes back to the core that people are famous or influential for a reason and not because of how many followers they have on Instagram.
Coming back to why I cringe when some refer to me as an influencer… because it doesn’t say what I am purportedly famous or influential for. Call me a father, an entrepreneur, a husband to my wife, a blogger but not an influencer.
I’ve tested this too. At Netccentric we run so many social media campaigns and we found that people who are “influential” for no other reason other than looking good on Instagram tend to lead to very few conversions of a product they sell. In one case the campaign we ran was a mobile app.
We ran it on two different influencers. One a blogger who had 100K followers on Instagram. Another was a really pretty girl who had 300K.The results were this: The blogger drove almost 20K downloads, the pretty girl… 500.
We’ve seen similar results for celebrities/YouTubers vs pure Instagram stars.
Another important factor in getting effectiveness from influencers is the way it’s used.
Mothership.sg came out with a really good article last week calling the bullshit on how some brands use influencers. I like Mothership.sg for their wit and their sarcasm. There is truth is what they’re saying. Admittedly even within our own campaigns at Nuffnang (one of the bloggers in the article is a Nuffnang Singapore blogger… not the one who claimed to carry around a 1-litre milk carton but another).
The inside story of this is a little complicated. Brands know they want to use influencers and they know using the right ones help but what’s the safest way to use them? Easy… the way endorsements have been done since the beginning of celebrity endorsements. Holding a product and taking a picture. Like George Clooney with Omega or Beyonce with Pepsi. So influencers go along with what brands want and if I’m going to be honest, I personally have been guilty of this too in the past.
What Nuffnang is trying to do is champion this change. That if you’re using influencers who are influential because of their work (be it music, video, writing (blogging)) then we have to use them through their work. Incorporate your brand into the video that a YouTuber is doing if it goes well with the story or let a blogger incorporate your product as part of something he or she is going to write anyway. Be part of the conversation rather than trying to dictate the conversation.
Another article about influencers I really like is this one. What the article gets right is that many influencers are overpriced and really add limited value to a brand. Eventually brands are going to realize this and stop engaging them.
What the article neglects to say is that among all the noise, there are the real influencers. People like bloggers like Xiaxue and Vivy Yusof, or musicians like Joyce Chu or actors/actresses like Nora Danish with 2m followers on Instagram. These influencers will continue to thrive.
How about influencers who lie about really using a product?
The truth is this does happen. I strongly discourage it and personally for me before I write about a product I make sure I’ve tried it myself and believe in it. Lying about a product kills your credibility entirely and some influencers do kill the Golden Goose by doing that… but not everyone.
There are influencers out there who take their credibility to their followers very seriously. Ones that know that their influence is only present as long as they have credibility. Ones that know that it takes a long time to build trust… but just one posting to destroy it all.
These are the influencers that have real influence.
These are the ones that can influence a buying decision and drive sales.
These are the true influencers.