“Influencer” has become a bit of a buzzword within digital marketing.
But what does “influencer” actually mean, and why has it become such a popular term?
More to the point, why is the term so often resented by the social media stars it is used to describe?
Fun challenge: try saying the phrase "social influencer" without throwing up
— jacksfilms (@jacksfilms) July 19, 2016
What Is An "Influencer"?
Looking to reach a younger audience? Get an “influencer” on board.
Want to build your social media following? Pay an “influencer” to share your product online.
Trying to influence opinion or raise awareness for a cause? You know where this is going…
Getting good traction on social media has become a crucial element of any good marketing campaign. A relatively cheap digital campaign which goes viral can very feasibly make more impressions than an expensive, long-running TV advertisement.
And what better way to ensure that a campaign goes viral than to use popular social media personalities with millions of followers?
Step in the “influencers”.
Google defines “influencers” as people with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.
More often than not, this term refers to popular YouTubers, who have billions of subscribers between them and receive more daily views than most most major TV channels. On mobile alone, YouTube reaches more 18 – 49 year olds than any broadcast or cable TV network.
So, there is no doubting that these personalities can “influence” their viewers and increase a brand’s social media reach.
But that doesn’t mean they like the label…
“One Step Away From Being Called a Manipulator”
Resentment of the term “influencers” has become widespread among these personalities, who often implore journalists and advertisers to find new ways to describe their role in digital marketing.
The issue for social media stars is not in the marketing world’s definition of the term; it stems from the implications of the word itself.
More often than not, this resentment is rooted in the feeling that “influencers” as a label implies an inherent ability to shape and manipulate the opinions of suggestive young viewers.
Since people insist on calling me an influencer, I’ve tried to sort of reclaim the word and convince myself that as long as I’m “influencing” people to be good and do good and feel good then it’s okay. But honestly it’s one step away from being called a manipulator and I hate it. https://t.co/Y0YYtVXSVI
— Hazel Hayes (@TheHazelHayes) October 21, 2018
It also carries with it the implication that these online personalities are good for nothing but their viewership and reach, a suggestion that does not sit well within their community.
In a panel on creators and branding at Buffer Festival 2017, musician Dodie Clark – who started out on YouTube and is still an active video blogger – said the following when asked about her relationship with digital marketing:
“We’re good people, we make good stuff. We don’t want to be used – it’s not just about our numbers.”
“The marketing world calls internet creators “influencers”… because they want a way to talk about us that is helpful to them.”
“Don’t reduce what creators do to this one thing – that is, the one thing that matters to you.”
You can watch Hank’s full video on the subject here.
While the intention of journalists and advertisers in using the “influencers” label is usually positive (if a little self-interested), the negative connotations of the term mean that it is understandably resented by online personalities.
At JBi, we know how important it is to show our collaborators that we respect their accomplishments and experience, and value them as more than just a means to an end.
With social media stars, there is no better way to do this than to use an appropriate descriptor; one which shows an appreciation of their creative achievements, while also demonstrating an understanding that these personalities feel a degree of responsibility towards the audience that they bring with them.
So, next time you’re looking to bring a popular YouTuber into your digital marketing campaign, you might want to avoid calling them an “influencer”.
My job isn't to get people to buy things, it's to make stuff people like. Reducing creation to commoditized "influence" grosses me out.
— Hank Green ⏰👶🍳🌅🚗👨✈️🛫✈️🛬PodCon!! (@hankgreen) July 1, 2016
Let’s just call them “creators”, shall we?
If you’re looking to build your online presence (without using the “influencer” label!), or have any other digital projects that you’d like to discuss with us, drop us an email at [email protected]