Influencers are people that have the ability to sway the opinions of those around them.
The term itself is not a new one. In fact, we can use early communication theories to better understand it.
Early theories state that there are nodes within communication networks. These nodes (people/brands) serves as hubs. These hubs are essentially points of intersection. The relationships they help shape and connect are indicative of the level influence they have. The stronger the node, the quicker their messages diffuse to a larger audience.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elihu Katz a renowned sociologist and communications expert, whose work transformed the field. His theory, the two-step flow of communication, changed how we understand and define influence to this day.
His findings allow us to better understand the foundations of influencer marketing and the decisions being made on behalf of these brands to gain authority in the digital space.
With the advent of social media, influencer marketing has become more attractive, accessible and effective.
However, there are some issues that arise with that as well.
One of the main problems is that somewhere along the way the term influencer became more closely associated with status than actual influence.
Influencers now wrongfully believe that the larger their followings,
the more automatically impactful their efforts will be.
This creates pressure and as result, they are often forced to take decisions or make statements that they do not stand by.
Here are four of them.
1. "Numbers don't matter to me."
Lie: "I value the quality of my audience over the quantity."
Reality: They care a lot about growth and follower/following ratios.
Issue: Brands working with these influencers often use numbers to gage influence. They think a higher follower count will result in more exposure, engagement, sales, etc. This is simply a vanity metric. The bigger the numbers, the better the ROI? Not quite.
2. "I would never buy followers."
Lie: "I value real, engaged followers over ones that are not."
Reality: They purchase followers to appear more influential and encourage others to follow too.
Issue: These followers, often robots, don't have any value to provide their brand or yours. They won’t engage back, they won’t click on your CTA or purchase your product.
3. "I don't consider myself an influencer."
Lie: "I focused on building a community and the title came organically."
Reality: They often label themselves first in an effort to gain credibility, increase their reach and secure more opportunities.
Issue: A brand's level of value and influence should be determined by the audience it serves. When the title is chosen and not earned, people looking to work with these individuals have no way of gaging what they will truly bring to the partnership. Who is vouching for them?
4. "I would never automate & walk away."
Lie: "I post all content in real time and I am always there to engage."
Reality: They automate content. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but often times they schedule posts to go out when they aren't there to follow up.
Issue: There is this misconception that the more a brand posts, even if that means doing so around-the-clock, the more they increase their chances of reaching their audience. However, the issue with this is two-fold. One, if a brand overshares they risk their audience tuning them out. Two, posting without being there to follow up is often a sign that brand has little interest in actually building relationships with those that engage with them. People looking to work with these accounts run the risk of communicating into a void and/or failing to see no long-lasting impact with their content.