Influence is the art of creating action. In the case of social media, this could be creating action personally, or on behalf of a brand.
Now with this definition in mind, who qualifies to be an influencer? The answer is: anyone! Anyone has the ability to influence the decisions of others, at any point in time. Whether it’s your parents, friends, mentor, professor, boss, celebrities, athletes, coaches, strangers, they all have some sort of influence on on. More importantly, they don’t actually have to be physically present to influence you.
So who can be an influencer? Let’s break it down into major groups.
BRANDS AND COMPANIES
Can a brand or company influence you? Heck yes! What do you think Marketing and Advertising is about? A lot of top brands do a great job at influencing purchase decisions, or they wouldn’t be around to sell you anything. For example, Apple does a great job and branding and developing loyal fans that will buy their products over and over again. American Eagle Outfitters does a great job at influencing teenagers to purchase their clothes, creating a clothing trend in high-schools. Any type of advertising has the potential to influence you. How many times have you ordered a late night pizza after that Pizza Hut add during your favourite sports show?
CELEBRITIES AND ATHLETES
Celebrities and athletes can have major influence, especially on youth. Now don’t get me wrong, just because they’re a celebrity, doesn’t mean they have influence – but some of them do. Often you’ll see kids want a certain hockey stick, because Sydney Crosby uses it. Or you’ll see someone buy a certain type of clothing, because their favourite superstar dresses with the same label.
There is one of two things that a celebrity or athlete needs in order to have influence: Trust or credibility.
Credibility – Someone like Sydney Crosby can influence you when it comes to training, sports, or hockey decisions – products or services related to the field – because he is credible. He’s one of the best players of all time, so if he says he uses a certain type of protein powder, sports drink, or skates, you believe him.
Trust – Celebrities like Oprah or Ellen Degeneres built their personal brand based on trust. They connect with their audience on a personal and emotional level. When Oprah comes out with her “Oprah’s Favourite Things” list, it definitely influences some people to try or buy these products. She’s built her whole reputation on trust, so why would she recommend something that’s not worth it, right?
COACHES, PROFESSORS, AND MENTORS
Coaches, professors, and mentors can have major influence on what you do. Not only for decisions, but your life in general. These are the people that guide you, that give you advice, that help you get in the right direction. You trust these people to make the right recommendations for you.
EXPERTS AND AUTHORITY FIGURES
You can’t deny that experts and authority figures have influence on you. Have you ever heard of Milgram’s study on obedience and authority figures? You should check it out! There are several other similar studies that show that when someone is an expert/authority, or is perceived to be an expert/authority (yeah, fakes have influence too), they can have a major influence on your actions.
Think about it – when you go to your doctor, and he tells you your sick and recommends you taking a certain prescription drug, you do it right? Or when you see a cop car coming your way, you tend to immediately slow down, even if you weren’t speeding. Authority figures and experts just tend to have this effect on us.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Friends, family, and peers are some of the most influential people you have in your networks. These are people that you know personally – if they say something is good, you believe them. If they tell you to do or not do something, you do it (or not do it!). You also really want to impress your friends and family, so you’re very conscious of your decisions, whether your friends or family are present or not.
What would my friends think if I shaved my head? What would my parents think if I quit school? What would my grandmother think if I got a tattoo?
ACQUAINTANCES AND STRANGERS
Funny enough, people that you’ve never met, or briefly met, can influence your actions. When you meet someone for the first time, you’re often polite, and act differently than if you were with close friends and family. But why? They can even influence decisions: Have you ever stood in a store, with two different boxes in your hands, and someone walk by saying “that one is reaaaaaallllly good”? What do you do next? You buy the one that the STRANGER just suggested. Why? You never met this person before, so why do they influence you?
The bottom line is, anyone can influence you, at any point in time. And it can happen anywhere – on TV, in a magazine ad, on the radio, on Facebook, social networks, blogs, Google, at a store, at a bar, in your house – anywhere!
What do you think about my different categories of who is an influencer? Do you agree with them? Why or why not? Who am I missing?