3 Reasons you’re looking for the wrong influencers


Influencers: The oxford dictionary defines it as those with the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone. I find that definition beautiful, magical even.

Recently, marketers started looking at this whole influencers thing in a digital way. We all know Word of Mouth is influence marketing with a less cool name and it has been around for centuries. Companies, brands, and agencies all tried to master it (and some of them actually managed to do so).

But what makes someone an influencer? Let’s add in some context. Take Mary. She’s reading a fashion website. Is she an influencer? Two hours later, she gets a Google Calendar alert. “Buy X-Mas gifts”. She logs on to her favorite boutique (because they have the coolest gifts). Is she an influencer now?

Let’s also step back a bit and get this all in the social media perspective. In my mind, I’m wondering how we’re looking for these influencers. I do it. I query Google. I’m looking for influencers. 10 minutes have passed and it’s clear now.

We are looking at the wrong people.

As I’ve browsed through some lists of (very interesting) people, I’ve noticed some patterns. Common sense (social media sense, at least) will tell you’re an influencer if:

  • You wear a fancy title: ‘maven’, ‘mogul’, ‘extraordinaire’ are my favorites;
  • You have a gigantic follower/fan base;
  • You guest post on mainstream publications (online/offline);
  • You are a speaker in every major event;
  • People actually re-everything you do (re-tweet, re-share, re-pin).
  • You have the digital equivalent of groupies.

Getting back to Mary, should she have any (or some) of these features, she’d be (in the eyes of social media) an influencer. You want Mary reading your fashion website, she has 50k followers on Twitter. Oh, you definitely want Mary browsing through your online store. She is talking at the boutique trade show next week. You see, Mary is an influencer.

But, wait, WHY?

I immediately read the definition again. Simply put, we’re looking for people with the capacity to have an effect on other people. We’re in the digital era, the data era, the measurement era. Ain’t nobody got time for ‘capacity’.

In the present era, we can’t afford to wait for influencers to kick in. We should redefine influence. Really, let’s remove some words. Allow me:

Influence: To have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone.

It’s clear now. You are an influencer if and only if you have contributed to a change on the behavior of someone else. And now, those examples become even clearer.

Reading a fashion website. You shared it on Facebook. Your share generated 720 new visits for that website. Yes, you ARE an influencer. Browsing through that cute online store? You tweeted about a purchase. That single tweet generated 14 other sales in that same day. Yes, you ARE an influencer. Even if you are Mary, a 21 student from Austin, Texas, with 317 followers on twitter and few more friends on Facebook.

Wrapping up, why do I think you’re looking for the wrong influencers?

  1. Volume over value: You’re looking at the big numbers. Followers. Fans. Likes. Those can be important but also they can be vanity metrics. Focus on what your true followers really mean to you. Look at value. Choose a metric (traffic, sales, signups) and look for the users who are moving that metric’s needle.
  2. Lack of tracking: You should be following your influencers’ every move. You should study them as the awesome specimen they are. You should learn about them and with them. You should be able to understand what is that they do that helps you so much. Get your tracking in place to know how your influencers are contributing to your business.
  3. One size fits all engagement: You know who they are and you know what they mean to you. Talk to them. Be transparent. Tell them what they mean to you and establish a premium relationship with them. Don’t put them in the same basket as everyone else. Make them special. Make them feel special. Give them benefits, free stuff, extra perks, whatever it takes. You’ll probably be enhancing the whole influence power of each and every one of them.

Influence is the power to affect anyone. And it is amazing! Use it wisely.

How are you identifying your influencers?

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João Romão is a founder & CEO at GetSocial.

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