Why The Word Influencer Needs to be Removed From Your Social Media Dictionary

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Here’s a thought I’ve struggled to articulate. That’s pretty unusual for me, as I can generally find a moment of inspiration that lets me open the door on most of my thoughts and sends me to a keyboard to capture the words at the most unusual of moments.

What do I find objectionable about the term ‘social media influencer’?

And why do I think the term doesn’t help anyone, either the brands, the consumers or even the ‘influencers’ themselves?

Quite why I dislike the word ‘Influencer” when it comes to the social media landscape is something I struggle to describe.

But in this blog post I’m going to try. See if you agree with my viewpoint.

I feel that the word suggests something about the implied manipulation of an audience and also the additional implication that your audience is gullible enough to simply swallow your endorsement. That makes the term Influencer one that I think any business with aspirations on building a genuine social media audience should be deleting from their dictionary.

It smells, rightly or wrongly, of a lack of true authenticity. This blatant description of their alleged power over their audience is something that winds me up to a point that I have to be careful what I say and to whom.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that significant figures on the social media landscape use the power of their brands to sell things to people in their audience by product endorsement. I’m OK with that, this isa technique for selling that goes back many years, way before social media and the internet. These people do it simply as part of their mix, part of their day to day work. For these people with truly loyal, intelligent followers, they would probably be truly horrified to be described as ‘social media influencers’.

Are social medie influencers a good thing?
Should we be listening to the Influencers?

The best ‘influencer’s on social media are those that are popular for all the right reasons. Of course, your mileage may vary, I prefer the authenticity that comes with just simply being who you are and letting people decide for themselves whether your opinion is of value.

So just who is a genuinely authentic Influencer that I do actually enjoy seeing?

Philip BloomPhilip’s channels are a genuine passion for filmmaking and sharing his experiences, skills and vision. You kind of feel that if Philip made no money at all as a film maker, he’d still be doing it. The fact that manufacturers of cameras and all of the other elements in a film maker’s workflow all seek him out to review products and talk about them shows that he has a real resonance with his audience.

Gary Vee – Gary is, without doubt, an acquired taste on social media. His New Yorker In Your Face style reminds me of My Cousin Vinny sometimes. But cut through the volume and listen to Gary’s content and he has such much heartfelt information to share. Plus, of course, he’s one of the few social media marketing guys who, like Darren Rowse, has really built an online business and walked the walk. He’s not selling online courses telling you how to…… make money online. Give him a try.

Aussie GritMark Webber has got me watching Formula One again. His try style of humour and the way he bounces off Coulthard gives him an authenticity that brands seek out. The recent Top Gear promo slot is testament to that. The fact that he’s a Porsche ambassador, is associated with Rolex and flies a Eurocopter makes him good for me too….

These guys would never, ever describe themselves as influencers, even though they are very influential indeed on social media.

The Opposing View?

There is, of course, a counterpoint and a perfectly valid reason why brands would like to be associated with Social Media Influencers and why it’s actually not as free loading and freebie scrounging at it first sounds.

Sara Tasker’s blog Me and Orla carries a very good defence of the Influencer industry and comments about the recent Elle Derby saga and her public humiliation by a Dublin hotel owner.

For me, Sara is absolutely correct in her assessment. Firstly, the hotel owner’s public bullying of a 22 year old girl is indefensible. Secondly, her main error was in not taking a closer look at the Hotel’s history. He has a long record in taking delight at offending and humiliating various people, from vegans to hikers and others in between. She should have simply stayed clear. Asking for accommodation over the Valentines Day period probably didn’t exactly help either!

Sara also makes a very good point that people in the national press are never required to disclose any deals or relationships they may have with brands.

The Automotive Influencers

In the automotive world, high profile, overseas car launches are a normal part of the industry, yet take a look at the Twitter bile that comes from motoring journos when they spot a social media influencer at a car press launch. The automotive influencers sadly do little to help themselves, in truth. The fascination with whacky outfits doesn’t help and the superficial nature of some content certainly shows the influence of the Kardashian generation.

Yet the same motoring writers that express hatred are sitting on the same free flight, staying at the same five star hotel and driving the same cars on the same road route.

Go figure that one out.

So, why do Influencers feel the need to write that word in a bio?

Why would you feel the need to write in your bio that you are an ‘influencer’? Surely, a scan of your channels and content would lead anyone considering working with you to arrive at the correct conclusion anyway?

Quite what an Influencer’s audience must think of this term is beyond me.

Are people really either that passive or that smitten with the Influencer, or simply that accepting of the fact that they are going to be spoon fed endorsements that they have to share and like? Does that make you ‘Under The Influence”?

So the take away from this rant?

If you are indeed a social media ‘influencer’ with a large and loyal following, simply be who you are and hide the term from public view.

If you are a brand or business and you’re approached by someone with a large digital audience, prepare to be open minded, you never know it may just work well for you.

And for you and your own brand or business, the best people to be aligned with are not those who have Influencer on their bio, but those who you genuinely like yourself.

As the late George Burns once said when asked about the secret of is success “Sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made”

Are you a social media influencer or a brand that has worked with some? You can leave your viewpoint in the comments below.

Author: Neill Watson

Neill Watson is a professional writer, photographer and driver coach. He is the founder and editor of Historic Racer and the popular Car Photographer blog. Learn more about him and connect with him on the social media channel of your choice using the symbols below or sign up for Neill's regular email newsletter.

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