Gaming the System: the Role of Influencers

The role of “influencer” has become a prominent part of the social media landscape. Influencers come in all shapes and sizes. Essentially, an influencer is someone who impacts another person’s decisions. This is accomplished through a variety of means and methods. Some influencers have celebrity status. Others have a large following on one, or more, social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook. Some have a wealth of knowledge or expertise about a specific topic. Mostly though, the influencer is about representing a brand and building personal relationships. Trust is key for the influencer, in addition to creating authentic (sponsored) content.

Most astonishing to me is the role of an influencer as an actual profession. Influencers make lots of money(!), to create content, build relationships, and represent brands. Ideally, the influencer should be generating business towards a specific brand or item, thereby making money for the company. However, using influencers makes sense from a business perspective. Influencers are a powerful marketing tool. They’re able to reach vast amounts of people, many of whom are likely the intended audience.

Seeing a review, or endorsement, from a person may have more weight than an advertisement. Whenever I check reviews for a new product, I usually read peer reviews. I also check some reputable product review companies, but peer reviews count too. Although, one must be mindful of the motives behind the peer review. There is a lot of fraud out there.

Gaming the System

Every time I hear about influencers, I always stop for a moment to wonder, how did we get here? How did this become a legitimate paid profession? And can I get in on the action? (Though I’m never sure what I would be good at endorsing…). Even more importantly, I always wonder about all the influencers gaming the system.

By gaming the system, I’m referring to influencers who buy “fake” followers to make their accounts look more attractive. Or people who are really savvy at creating catchy, sensational posts that go viral due to algorithms. Or by using bots to fabricate popularity and thus boost views.

So where does this leave us, as people, and consumers? Inundated by a never ending flow of content, some more authentic than others.

My advice, go for quality over quantity. Look into a couple of resources, or influencers, you like and verify them. Disregard the rest of the stuff.

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