"What do you want to be when you grow up? Doctor, lawyer, teacher, baseball player?"
That's the dream right now for young people (and some of us older folk too). About a dozen years ago, everyone and their mom (literally) wanted their own reality show. A lot of them got it. Then with the advent of social media people found out they could produce their own reality shows and social took on a life of its own... and what a glamorous life it's become.
The amount of time we spend each day consuming media is staggering and obviously that includes more than just sitting in front of the tv nowadays. Although we have the ability to watch tv shows and movies on our personal devices now, much of our screen time is dedicated to social media. Some say it's an addiction. We've become addicted to watching the lives of friends, family, and celebrities through photos and videos on social media but we've also become infatuated with the lives of self-made celebrities. They are Youtube, Instagram, Twitch, Twitter, and Snapchat celebrities. How have they been able to capture and command so much of our attention?
Influencers leveraged social media to build a brand and that brand is... themselves. Social media platforms have become a new medium for communication and marketing. It has its own set of rules, its own form, its own language. Influencers have come to understand (perhaps establish) the principles of effectively utilizing this platform to reach the masses.
It's a playbook that corporations and businesses are compelled to employ. It's become a standard. There are college courses, workshops, conferences, software and apps dedicated to strategically using social media. There are businesses built simply to give their customers, whether individuals or corporations, the illusion of having a following. Being an influencer isn't easy, but it's big business.
Influencers understand that their full-time job consists of consistent posting of fresh, quality content, two-way engagement, creating an aspirational lifestyle, being a knowledge expert (fashion, beauty, photography, filmmaking, science?), and in some cases being timely and topical and having an opinion on social issues. They leverage relationships and partnerships to extend their reach. Influencers know that by collaborating with friends and other influencers, their powers become greater than the sum. Companies have come to understand that leveraging the um, well influence of a bunch of influencers has a compound effect like forming an influencer Voltron.
A lot of these strategies can be employed by anyone but what often separates the truly successful from the rest of the pack is that something special. It's often hard to define. The most popular influencers have a talent, a style, a personality, a unique identity. They may seem familiar, relatable, approachable and yet have something that elevates them and makes their lives aspirational. They are the popular kids at school. Sometimes they're not... but that gives a particular group of kids someone to rally around.
Can anyone be an influencer? Perhaps. Certainly there's something special about everyone (individual, brand, corporation). It's important to embrace and develop an identity but it can be difficult to find what makes you unique or to discover what it is precisely you excel at. When you can definitively answer the question, "What makes you special," knowing that the answer is never "Nothing," then you can become an influencer... It just takes a little hard work.