A few years ago, with the emergence of social media, the phenomenon of influencers spread in social media.
If you were asked who an “influencer” is, what
would come to your mind?
“A person who has the ability to affect people’s
actions, choices, opinions…etc.” or “A person with many followers on social media that promotes something they have considerable knowledge about (usually a product)”.
Well, we can’t be sure which will be your answer now. However, decades ago it would have definitely been the first one.
Not because the idea of “influence-marketing” the term used to refer to this type of marketing didn’t exist.
In fact many sources argue that its appearance can be dated back to centuries ago- but rather because what shed light on it and even created the idea of it as a separate career was the growing importance of social media throughout the last decade.
So, starting off with the meaning of “Influence”, how is it actually defined.
Just like the answer to the previously posed
question, the official definition of the word in
dictionaries evolved by time as well. The word
“Iinfluence” used to be defined as:
- “Someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave” (Cambridge Dictionary).
- "One who exerts influence: a person who inspires or guides the actions of others” (Merriam-Webster).
However, the definition of “influence” as a career made it to dictionaries no earlier than mid-late 2010 implying a late official acknowledgment yet the rising attention this word was gaining in reference to social media made using it in its definition a necessity. Thus,
we see dictionaries defining it now as:
- “A person or thing that influences somebody/something, especially a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by recommending it on social media.” (Oxford dictionary).
- “A person who is able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media.” (Merriam- Webster, 2019).
A Job Title Created From An Abstract Meaning
So, it’s clear that we witnessed the development of the abstract meaning of having influence over other people in a certain field to a job, one that is currently having an influx of candidates especially young people.
In fact, when influence-marketing first appeared, it used to depend on celebrities with already wide popularity that attracted brands to promoting their products/services in campaigns featuring these celebrities, whether actors/actresses, fashion icons,people in high positions…etc. However, influence- marketing through social media quantified the concept of influence. So today, the influence and the brands col abrading with them use social media metrics to detect the success of their col abrasions and their accounts in general. Thus, it is very likely that you hear of or even use terms as: reach, impressions, engagement, leads and others that refer to metrics used in the field of digital marketing. So, the measure of influence was converted from observed rising trends, copied styles of famous people or public opinion -which would take time to detect- to on the spot calculated numbers. Adding to that, the switch in the way influencers interact with and influence people; Previously they had to make public appearance, interviews and ad campaigns, but now in a much easier way: Posts on social media can do the job.
Is The Growing Influencer-Marketing Industry Beneficial?
People in high positions…etc. However, influencer- marketing through social media quantified the concept of influence. So today, the influencers and the brands col aborating with them use social mediam metrics to detect the success of their col aborations and their accounts in general. Thus, it is very likely that you hear of or even use terms as: reach, impressions, engagement, leads and others that refer to metrics used in the field of digital marketing. So, the measure of influence was converted from observed rising trends, copied styles of famous people or public opinion -which would take time to detect to on the spot calculated numbers. Adding to that, the switch in the way influencers interact with and influence people; Previously they had to make public appearance, interviews and ad campaigns, but now in a much easier way: Posts on social media can do the job.
Whether social media influencers are actualy affecting us in a positive or negative way is stil a debate depending on your perspective, yet speaking in terms of facts, this industry is yielding profits to some groups:
-Businesses/Brands found a new highly revenue- generating marketing channel -which some even devote a separate budget for- and these rising sales are mainly driven by the trust of consumers in the influencer promoting this business/brand and thus increasing brand awareness and boosting its reputation. In addition they are now able to bet reach their target group by choosing an influencer in a field relevant to their services/products. Thus,they guarantee that their campaign would be seen by people who are already interested in them giving higher probability of sales.
A growing stream of platforms and agencies are
making use of the already established relationship between businesses/brands and influencers, acting as mediators and developing in this process as wel the usual form of agencies to social media-oriented one that fits the new context.
The influencer marketing industry is considerably
profitable for influencers.Even if not at the beginning, in some cases it can even turn these influencersinto celebrities (highest level of influencers.
However, it’s the social implications that mostly
cause the contradiction in opinions about its benefits for all the involved parties. For example:
The extent of influence that any of these
influencers can have can be risky; a negative review can cost a business a lot, a bad recommendation can cost influencers their whole career.
And as for consumers, some campaigns can be really misleading.
Another downside is the involvement of personal life in this industry. In most cases, establishing high level of trust can develop an interest in personal life, opinions, and activities. This has been already made clear by the fact that these accounts are personal ones based on the personal identity of such influencer. So an unfavorable personal opinion that costs the
influencer their popularity -even if not forever- can still be more difficult to recover from since they can’t just brand or re-establish a new identity unlike what any brand would do in a similar case.
Finally, the ones with a large number of followers
are sometimes pressured by them to make a stance towards pressing issues (political, social…etc.)
because for people: “They gained the power to INFLUENCE.”
Who do you listen to? Who influences your day to day decisions? Many of us are being led and misled away from our own thinking power.
— Rosangel Perez
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Rawan Osama
Rawan Osama (author) from Egypt on June 12, 2021:
Hey, dear Pamela
Thanks for reading
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 12, 2021:
This is a very good and interesting article about influence. Thank you for sharing it, Rawan.