I knew barely anything about the subject of social media influencers so I decided, as a personal quest, to educate myself by doing some research on the topic. As a result, I now know a wee bit more than nothing about it and understand even less. The world of influencers these days is wacky and wild, in my humble opinion.
In all honesty, influencers have been around for a long time. Advertising, especially television ads, have used pitch men and women to sell us useless and unwanted widgets for decades. If you are ancient like me, you might remember the commercial with the relaxed doctor in his white coat seated at his office desk taking a drag off his lit ciggy and exhaling the words, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.”
Before we dive too deeply into the subject, let’s be clear on what we are discussing. An influencer is defined as someone who has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of one’s authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with an audience. Well, I guess that pretty much eliminates me from the list.
One does have to question, however, what it is that makes people want to be influenced to the point that they will follow a total stranger’s advice on what kind of corn flakes they should have for breakfast or what brand of sneaker they absolutely must wear on their feet. Is it some kind of “lemming” mentality that makes people follow along after all the others who are also following along blindly even though the end destination may lie at the bottom of some suicide cliff of consumerism? According to a study made by Forbes magazine, 49.3 per cent of respondents to a survey admitted to having made a purchase on the recommendation of an influencer. The influencer marketing industry is getting so immense that Business Insider news website predicts that sales will top $22 billion by the end of 2022, which is a leap from $8 billion only three years ago.
It’s no wonder, therefore, why corporations large and small are jumping aboard the influencer bus. You might say that the bus itself is being driven “under the influence” and that the whole world is suffering from an “influence-za” epidemic. Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of social networks.
Of the many social network platforms out there, there are five that are at the head of the class when it comes to influencer power. They are YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram with the latter, as of this moment, being the most popular when it comes to following influencers.
What makes somebody want to become an influencer? Naturally, there’s prestige, adulation, fame and a certain amount of notoriety. And of course there’s, you guessed it, money. This can come in the form of cold, hard cash, affiliate marketing, display advertising, photo and video sales, or just plain merchandise perks. For example, I know someone who always has a free supply of high grade cigars from a manufacturer because he has agreed to appear as an influencer on his Instagram account smoking a cigar of that brand.
Social media influencers come in many sizes and flavours. They can be categorized by numbers, content, or niches. If they have more than 1 million followers, they are called “mega” influencers. “Macro” influencers are followed by 40,000 to 1 million people. The prefix “micro” is used for between 1,000 and 40,000 followers, and “nano” describes influencers with less than 1,000 followers. Size isn’t everything, however, as influencers may have smaller numbers but more committed followers who can be “delivered” to a particular marketer. The highest performer influencers who make the greatest difference in sales of a product or service are called “chromo” influencers.
Do you want an example of both a mega and chromo influencer all in one? Her name is Eva Diana and she has a hit YouTube channel that is the third most viewed channel IN THE WORLD! She has 73.4 million followers who love it when she does toy reviews. Her most watched video, “Diana and Her Barbie Car Camping Adventure,” has had over 1 billion (that’s billion with a B) views. Here’s the best part: Eva Diana is just six years old. SIX FRIGGIN’ YEARS OLD!
Is Eva Diana a little under your league when it comes to social media influencers? Perhaps you would prefer to tune in to someone closer to your maturity level. You might try Ryan’s World, a channel that is 19th on the list of YouTube top influencers, and features nine-year-old Ryan Kaji, his parents and twin sisters. Although Ryan has only 28.2 million followers, his video called Huge Eggs Surprise Toys Challenge has generated over 2 billion views. Forbes magazine, the global authority on business wealth, has declared Ryan’s channel to be one of the highest earning YouTube channels. What were you doing when you were nine years old?
Another way of categorizing influencers is by content. There are many platforms through which content can be relayed, but three of the most popular ones are using bloggers, video channels and podcasts. Bloggers are able to post text, photos and videos on personal or team blog sites. These blogs can inform followers on personal development, finance, health, child rearing, music and even blogging itself. Although all these topics can be enlightening and educational, you may find that most of the influencer content that is available on social media revolves around dogs and cats and the costumes that their owners have dressed them up in.
Nobody asked me, but now that I’ve done copious amounts of research on social media influencers, I am no closer to discovering what it takes to make somebody an influencer or what makes people choose one whacky influencer over another. The only real clue I’ve found from scanning the top 10 list of Instagram influencers is that it doesn’t hurt to be related to the Kardashian clan. Groucho Marx said he would never be a member of a club that would have someone like him as a member. Jerry Rubin said that we are the children our parents warned us to stay away from. I say that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink; however, you can put him in a ballet tutu, place a dozen cats in face paint on his back, and get five billion followers to watch the video. Then you can call yourself an influencer.