What has "influencing" come to?

What has "influencing" come to?

I've been going back and forth for some time now on whether or not to write thought posts. Simply my thoughts related to travel topics, social media things, the world at large, the economy, or any random topic I feel strongly about.

So my first thought piece is going to be about this lustrous, lucrative, yet irksome world of being an "influencer". Thank you for giving me the space to rant in 2018.

First, let's be clear on what an influencer actually is. According to Merriam-Webster, influence is:

"the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways."

Sounds relatively obvious right? An influencer is someone who influences. Simple enough.

But let's really question what constitutes 'influence' these days. IG has pushed influencers towards using pods for better engagement due to their new algorithm. A pod is basically a group of users, either on IG or an outside app, where each member quickly likes/comments on each other's post in order to get noticed by the algorithm. But are pod users whom inorganically generate dozens of quick one/two word comments really influencing people?

Then there's the "pay for a post" feature where profiles offer a guaranteed number of followers if you pay for a post on their page. Have you ever noticed the followers these platforms usually generate though? Sure, your follower count may artificially increase 1,000 followers, but most of them have a profile resembling "x_fhao29112354o978253" and 30 pictures of the same dog that were posted within 3 hours of each other. Are you actually influencing anyone if these accounts are spam?

Sure, influencers earn money on posts and a post with 1,000+ likes and 200 comments can make you decent money. But let's not forget that doesn't mean you're actually influencing all those people. I can only hope as this world of social media continues to grow that businesses become more savvy of these tactics when choosing influencers. Here's how:

1. See past the number of likes/comments:

Too often influencers get paid just because they have a certain number of likes or comments. Given that you can buy likes and comments, this can be an inaccurate. Look at who is commenting and what they're saying. 

2. Forget the blue check mark

Yes it's true that a blue checkmark will make your profile stand out and look more professional. However, it has been said that IG employees will take money on the side to hook your profile up with a verification. Users with a blue checkmark beside their name are no better than the rest of us, and our content is just as worthy of being seen as theirs.

3. Spot the pod users

If someone has the same 20 people as the first 20 comments on nearly every photo, odds are they're using a pod to boost growth. This to me is no different than using bots to automatically like and comment on your behalf.

4. Ask about their website or other platforms

Bloggers have websites where their articles and content live, they have YouTube channels, Amazon Associate channels, etc. Ask to see website stats, number of clicks from social media to the website, and actually browse their content! All of this information will give insight into whether or not your business will actually benefit from working with said person. Influencing is much more wholistic than IG likes and comments.

With so many people trying to be an influencer these days, it's more important than ever to remember why we create in the first place. Creativity shouldn't be about hunting down likes and comments just so someone can notice your pictures (shame on Instagram for changing their algorithm and making this the case).

How to keep it organic:

  1. Follow accounts you love, let them know how great their pictures are, and actually engage with them over time
  2. Don't use pods
  3. Don't use bots
  4. Don't use stock images
  5. Appreciate creativity and inspire creativity as much as possible

This is the actual substance of influencing.