Who are the people whose opinions you respect the most? What celebrities or public figures do you follow on social media for their wit and wisdom? What groups come to mind when you think of the type of people you’re most likely to listen to? These are your influencers, and they can impact your life in ways you don’t even realize.
Who Are Your Influencers?
Anyone with a decently sized, loyal following of people whom they can reach out to and communicate with can be considered an influencer. A blogger with a large readership may be one, or a YouTube channel with a lot of subscribers, whose videos reliably get a large number of hits.
Celebrities like George Takei on Facebook or Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter fall into the influencer category as well, but so could anyone else with a reasonably high number of followers, even if they’re not famous for anything outside of social media. For instance, an Instagram account whose photos start to become popular and are viewed by tens of thousands of other users could be considered an influencer.
Some websites have metrics to determine how much of an influencer a person is on social media, based on how large their social circles are, how much interaction their posts get, how many people re-post their content, and other factors. However, for practical purposes, it’s safe to say that an influencer is anyone with the power to reach a large audience with their message.
How They Affect Our Lives
Particularly in the online world, we’re constantly surrounded by advertising. From banner ads on the side of the websites we visit, to commercials before the YouTube videos we watch to spam messages in our e-mail, people are constantly trying to sell to us. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear to marketers that these ads are increasingly ineffective. Many of us employ ad-blocking software to filter out these messages, and even those who don’t rarely pay attention to what those ads are saying.
Instead if we’re looking for information about a product or brand, we go directly to people and sources we trust. Word of mouth remains one of the most effective marketing methods there is. This is where influencers come in.
Rather than casting a blanket advertising message over a huge group of people who will never see it, many online marketers attempt instead to gain the cooperation of influencers whose following includes the demographic they’re trying to reach. You may see a dozen commercials about a particular cause and how important it is and never even register its name. However, if George Takei posts on Facebook that he’s supporting it and talks a little bit about why, suddenly you (and several million others) are aware of it and have more of an interest in who they are and what they do.
Sometimes these promotions come in the form of blatant product placement, but more often they’re subtler than that, such as someone mentioning what book they’re reading or store they’re shopping at. From the audience’s point of view, this is a person whose voice they’re invested in. Offering their opinion or recommendation thus bears more weight than a banner ad or commercial. From a marketer’s point of view, however, it’s someone who can deliver their message to his or her built-in audience.
Using social media influencers in marketing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and just because someone agrees to promote something to their followers doesn’t automatically mean they’re selling out. They could really believe in the message they’re spreading and want to use their platform to get the word out for something good or important. However, it would behoove you to take a closer look at the people whose content you enjoy, and the opinions and product preferences they express. Do they really have your best interest in mind, or are they simply trying to sell you?