Call Yourself An “Influencer”? The Whole World Just Hears The Word “Idiot”

The word “influencer” gets thrown around a lot by brands and people alike. And I’m here, on behalf of bloggers, creators and the future of humanity to say one thing. Stop it.

If you are a brand, stop using this word and thinking this is a smart marketing tactic. If you are a casual social media user, remove this word from your vocabulary. And if you create content online and consciously call yourself an “influencer,” take a hard long look at yourself. 

What we have here is a word with damaging connotations for all involved. Through this piece, I have three simple lessons, to prove this to you. Nothing more, nothing less. So get into your comfy clothes, dear reader, and let’s start the class.

Just because you have a decent follower count doesn’t mean you have influence over people.

Chances are as a reader of New Rising Media (thanks, by the way), you are well averse to what I will nickname “spam engagement.” The “spam” part of that name relating to how easy it is to make your account look good with big numbers - be it through buying followers (gave that a look myself) or tweetdecking (talked about that too), or being part of Instagram Engagement Groups on Telegram.

If you (or companies looking for so-called influencers) took a second to scratch beneath the surface, you’d see just how these numbers, qualitatively, mean absolutely nothing. Whether it’s having a lot of followers and zero engagement, or an overwhelming amount of engagement with little-to-no followers. 

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This system is incredibly easy to game, showing just why some of the more…let’s say brain-numbing influencers float to the top of this metaphorical toilet - unable to be flushed away through staying power propagated by controversy and false virality. Simply put, numbers always come before quality when thinking like an influencer, which does more harm than good in the long run.

A focus on the influence of your work over the quality of it is a dangerous ingredient in what should be the pleasant cocktail of taking pride in your work. 

I have been incredibly lucky to write/film/record/create work for New Rising Media as a hobby and passion of mine for nearly seven years. There used to be a time where I relentlessly researched the Google Analytics and social engagement analytics behind all of my content, making topic decisions based on this wealth of data.

Unfortunately, this quickly turned it into a job and by late 2013, I had lost all love for it, as is probably well documented by the rather bleak tone-of-voice of my stories at the time! The mission had changed to attention-grabbing headline writing without much substance. NRM fell silent for much of 2014 because of it, and only a hard internal reset brought me back around. 

Don’t get me wrong, I like to look at numbers, but not a single data point concerns me in producing work I’m proud of, work I care about and work that (I hope) helps others understand the futurist world around them. Has that led to a dip in numbers? It did, but not to the extent I expected because of the second key lesson of this piece - it took me a few years to get it, but have never looked back since.

People are influenced by the genuine.

It’s easy to see through the facade of an influencer and be drawn to those who are real - their true selves, be it through any kind of content. Once the light bulb suddenly illuminated, readership rose once again, but that was a small victory. The big win came in the form of loving what I do all over again.

But most concerning? The meticulously manufactured and marketed lifestyle of an influencer is being viewed by some as a norm… That is dangerous because, to be honest, life is messy. Life is feeling inspired and accomplished one week, only to be followed by a mallet of anxiety to the face the following week for no reason other than the sheer over-analysis of that one vague statement your boss made in the office.

Life is sometimes coming across decisions that don’t have a clear right or wrong answer, leaving you in a messy grey area, which will no doubt be constantly re-evaluated in your own internal monologue for years to come. The truth is, well, lesson #3…

You have to learn to live with life at its messiest.

Viewing said life through the rose-tinted spectacles of an influencer, whitewashing any negativity with nonsense inspirational quotes and burying any anxieties under colourful imagery with 23 hashtags is not giving you proper coping mechanisms for that.

So, what am I trying to say here? Beyond the dramatic title, this is just a plea - to marketers and content creators everywhere. 

Leave this horrific word alone, and keep a wide birth of anyone who willingly calls themselves an “influencer.” Many brands are beginning to realise that having some random personality posting cringe-inducing content with a forced product recommendation message is not going to sell more of said product.

But yet, there are still a fair few bluechip companies who spend money and ask questions later, feeding into what is, essentially, a con. Influence is not a high follower count. Influence is not drama - sitting on ergonomic gaming chairs while dropping terrible, terrible diss tracks. 

And influence is most certainly not paying for fake paparazzi photographers to pretend to capture you at the main entrance of the UK Blog Awards… I will not name names because I’m above that level of pettiness (and I never got the name of the blogger who did this), but it's a fitting example of the over-inflated ego that calling yourself an “influencer” forces you to protect.

It’s all a lie. A not-so-elaborate rouse to pull the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting companies, and get paid for sponsored content that will do nothing of note for the brand.

Plus, the word just feels wrong. Follow these lessons and be awesome to each other.