Does “influencer” status really mean nothing anymore? And if so, how can we thrive in an era of falling public trust?
A few years ago, one could argue that we were in the “Influencer Era,” when social media influencers had enormous power to guide the narrative, persuade followers and even motivate purchasing decisions.
Today, I would argue, we are entering the “post-influencer” era, where a decline in trust in influencers (and each other) and an over-saturation of the term is leading to a backlash and degradation of the concept.
Does “Influencer” status really mean nothing anymore? And if so, how can we thrive in an era of falling public trust?
Content dilution and oversaturation
Let’s start by examining the roots of the problem. Accessibility and universal connectivity are hallmarks of the open Internet; anyone with an Internet connection can create a social media profile, write content, post their thoughts and try to gather an audience. In many ways, this has made a huge difference, allowing a minority to make their point and connecting us to people we might otherwise overlook.
But it has also led to a glut of content. Content marketing is a powerful strategy, and most people realize this by scaling their efforts to create as much content and reach as many people as possible. Most people are active on social media and strive to increase the size and reach of their audience. As a result, millions of people seek to become influencers in their own right, which blurs the meaning of the term.
Abuse of influencers
We must also recognize the existence of influencers who attempt to abuse their status (and the associated term). In the beginning, some companies and restaurants were willing to give discounts and free services to known social influencers who visited their businesses. This quickly evolved into a demand for special treatment from influencers wherever they went. Nowadays, companies charge influencers more money to prove their point.
This rapid evolution has given the term “influencer” a negative connotation, leading to glares and disparaging comments if someone tries to claim the title in real life.
The paradox of being an influencer
Many influential people are also a kind of paradox. Instead of offering new ideas, new data, or original concepts, they use the power of “minds” and echo chambers. Instead of volunteering stories that challenge mainstream thought in the industry, they play it safe and tell people what they want to hear.
In other words, influencers often build their platform on the backing of already established opinions. They become spokesmen for the sentiments of the masses rather than a leader who guides the masses toward new sentiments.
This is a sad state of affairs, though understandable.
The Modern Agent of Influence
Of course, agents of influence still exist in their pure form – as authoritative, influential individuals doing their best to objectively inform (and perhaps entertain) the public. But to stand out in a sea of pseudo-influencers and manipulators, you have to work hard.
Simple goals for aspiring Influencers
Still want to take advantage of influencer status? In this modern oversaturated environment, you’ll have to work harder than ever.
- Be true to yourself and your industry. Agreeing with conventional wisdom and giving people what they want may give you short-term popularity, but it won’t solidify your position as a true leader. Stay true to your core principles and your industry as a whole.
- Strive for accuracy and honesty. Instead of making random opinions or making unsubstantiated claims, strive for accuracy and honesty-even if it means holding back some comments you would otherwise make. It’s a slow process, but if you follow it, you’ll earn more respect in the end.
- Focus on quality, not quantity. Along these lines, focus on quality over quantity. It’s tempting and easy to constantly publish new content – and in a way, it’s profitable. But you should never sacrifice the quality or integrity of your work for the sake of publishing more posts.
- Don’t abuse your position. Being an influencer has many benefits, so you don’t have to go out of your way to get other special benefits. Don’t brag about your position or try to get special treatment for being read on social media.
- Interact with others in the right way. Understand the importance of having highly intelligent and lively discussions with others. Your opinion is not the only thing that matters, even if you are exceptionally well-informed. In addition, you must listen to your followers-but not submit to all their whims.
In a sense, influential people will never disappear. As a society, we will always rely on experts and leaders to show us the way forward and introduce us to new concepts, no matter what media or channels we use to communicate. What has changed is the number of people striving to reach this position and the demands placed on them.