Social Media Influencers ~ Insipid or Inspiring?

An influencer is someone who has:

  • the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience.
  • a following in a distinct niche, with whom he or she actively engages. The size of the following depends on the size of his/her topic of the niche.

It is important to note that these individuals are not merely marketing tools, but rather social relationship assets with which brands can collaborate to achieve their marketing objectives.

(Definition from Influencer Marketing Hub)

Back in 2015/2017, before I recall anyone using the word “influencer”, I worked at a fitness studio and much of my life was showcased on social media. The franchise I worked with encouraged us to post well and post often to cultivate what they referred to as the “know, like, and trust” factor. If people knew, liked, and trusted us, we could sell them anything.

That’s what social media influencers do – sell. Whether it is products or the idea of a lifestyle, the intent is to sell you on something.

Companies have gotten smarter over the years, realizing that people do not enjoy a sales pitch. It’s easy to scroll by ads but pause on people we may feel a similarity to. That is where social media influencers come into play – they bridge a gap between companies and consumers. If I have two young children and XXInstaJaneXX, who also has two children, swears that brand of laundry detergent basically washes, dries, and folds clothes for her…well, why wouldn’t I give it a go?

So, those are the product influencers. There are also “lifestyle influencers”. They are the ones who seem to always be on a lavish vacation or calmly sipping a latte in a quaint café. I am not entirely sure what they are selling, but the bottom line is that influencers are meant to influence us – whether it is to purchase a product or to desire a certain lifestyle.

What is she selling?

There are entire subreddits dedicated to bashing certain social media influencers. But here’s the thing – well, things:

(1) Be honest – who wouldn’t want the ability to be their weirdo self online while making money? Imagine having a loyal following that would allow you to make a positive impact on the world on a large scale. Imagine being able to work exactly when and where you want to, without a ‘boss’, per se.

(2) As long as we have a good sense of who we are and what we want, it is easy to scroll by content we don’t need without any emotional reaction. As in, every ripped post-workout photo wouldn’t make us feel insecure. Every travel post wouldn’t make us feel ferociously jealous that our current view may be an old postcard tacked up to the side of our cubicle. So, I don’t buy into the argument that influencers can cause self-esteem issues ~ we are responsible for ourselves.

(3) If we find amusement in an influencer or find that they inspire us to be better, more organized, more conscious of habits we would be better served without, that all sounds good. It is over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people remark that they have laughed significantly less lately. I follow one Instagram influencer because she posts about light topics and shares TikTok videos of her singing into the sprayer on her kitchen sink. It’s silly and I like it. She also posts links to products she likes and makes a commission off of the sale. Cool ~ but I am not being forced to buy anything.

We have the power to largely choose who and what we are influenced by. We cannot blame social media for whatever inadequacies we may be feeling at the moment or for our large credit card bill. What does it say about us if we mock or judge people for finding an alternative way to pay their bills in a hectic, stressful world?

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