The New Social Media Power Equation: Impact > Followers

Several companies, brands, and organisations are putting significant effort into influencer marketing. We have known this for a few years now, and we have witnessed the downside of this new tactic. It’s not uncommon for someone to emerge from the shadows and claim influence for reasons like:

The amount of people that follow them is fixed;

A lot of people talk a good line about being influential, but their work doesn’t back up their claims. They get on the main stage at conferences as a keynote speaker; they list themselves as consultants but don’t share what they’ve actually done; they get opportunities because of what they say they do, but haven’t actually done; and they don’t share what they’ve actually done.
This is a subject that has bothered me, and there have been instances where people have been given opportunities without deserving them. Their knowledge and insight have had an effect, but they haven’t followed through with the action that would maximise that effect.

Klout’s demise has been the subject of several blog postings, most notably those by Mark Schaefer and, more recently, Jason Falls. Mark and Jason are two of my closest friends, and I think they both made excellent arguments about the current and future condition of influencer marketing.

But Jason’s piece struck a chord with me on a personal level because of what he said about prioritising effect above followers when assessing influence.

To which I replied:

Finally, someone has said it that way.

An AMEN to what Jason Falls posted, please! Also, it was interesting to read Jason’s thoughts on the steps he has done to set himself apart from those who don’t share his values and ethos. I believe it’s healthy to have this viewpoint out in the open, and I think it’s an option to have here at all times.

Earlier this year, Jason said to my #FrebergSM class that there are influencers who merely speak publicly about social media but do not truly contribute to its development in any way.

This is something that I think is going to become an increasing problem in every industry, including the academic one. There are undoubtedly those who consider themselves “influential” yet lack the effort, tales to convey about what they have done to have a real influence, research, networking, or experience to back this up. As a result of the prevalence of social media, it is now easier than ever to give the impression that you have influence when you don’t.

As this is an important topic for today’s students and young professionals to understand, I devoted a significant portion of my social media book for Sage to it. While it’s tempting to compromise your integrity and reputation in exchange for a larger number of followers, being true to who you are and your values is essential.

This appears to be happening all the time on many social media platforms.

If you become a prominent figure in your field and are doing fascinating things, you’ll attract both supporters and critics. This is something that unfortunately occurs but is rarely talked about in the field. What really counts is how you react to and act upon this information.

Ultimately, you must act in accordance with your own personal standards of right and wrong. You, as a professional, should establish certain moral standards for the kind of conduct and stances you will tolerate. Invest your time and energy elsewhere and remove yourself from the situation if you see that someone is acting against your best interests or is trying to use you as a pawn. Isolate yourself from that influencer for a while if you come across their behaviour that you find unethical or unprofessional. Working with fakes that are harmful to your career and social circle is not worth the time you waste.

Whilst I agree that these problems won’t be solved overnight, I do believe that our understanding of the state of influencer marketing is improving. I agree with Jason that we need to include additional codes of ethics to the equation and educate the sector in what it actually means to be influential. Instead of focusing on success, we must evaluate the true impact of our work (another element I cover in my textbook). Perhaps we might aid the field’s development and get through this possible ethical problem if more people like Jason speak up about their worries and observations.

There are some who only talk and those who actually take action, and ultimately, we all want to count among the latter.