The last couple of years marked the rise of 'influencers'. Whether they be Instagrammers, YouTubers, or bloggers, this umbrella term united all of these previously non-mainstream and non-traditional entities into one, crossing over from 'the fifth estate' to becoming a whole new phenomenon on their own.
But while many rising stars on social media claim this term as soon as they hit a certain amount of followers, subscribers, or patrons on their respective platforms, we can't help but wonder if the word 'influencer' still stands for what it should mean: to actually have influence.
Take the Kardashians and Jenners, for example. Love them or hate them, the empire they have built on and through social media, even before 'social media influence' was a thing is a perfect example of mastering the art of being an influencer. This is most evident through Kylie Jenner's tweet about not loving the most recent Snapchat update — on the account that she was named the unofficial Snapchat Queen due to her fondness for the platform — supposedly caused the social media platform's value to drop by USD1.3 billion in a day.
sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad.— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) February 21, 2018
While the relationship between the tweet and the sudden drop in Snapchat's value can purely be coincidental, it still cannot be helped if some of Jenner's 24.6 million followers on Twitter and 104 million followers on Instagram decided to lay off of Snapchat upon seeing their idol's supposed nonchalant tweet. We've seen how she's currently basking in the glory of her lip kit empire, so is it really ridiculous to claim this is also possible?
Another example of this type of force upon people would be Rihanna, who is also the epitome of the word 'influencer'. Have RiRi pick up a trend and walk the streets donning it and for sure it'll be the next big thing. Her followers really 'follow' what she does and what she endorses and are not just passive numbers on her social media platform that do nothing but lurk and 'like' her content. Her beauty line also paved the way for a louder inspiration and social activism towards inclusivity in the industry. Talk about sparking change in the system!
Both Kylie and Rihanna set the phrase 'idolising someone' to new heights. People consider them as role models or people they want to support and be like, willingly and full-heartedly. Even with the obvious disparity between their celebrity status and their audience being everyday people just like us, it is fascinating to see how people have become so involved and invested in them. There is something about them and their images that separate them from the idea of being unattainable and unrelatable personalities to people whom others admire and want to imitate.
So how do we answer the question 'What does it really mean to be an influencer?' In all honesty, it is tricky and complex as a whole but the essence is quite simple: it's someone giving something a thumbs up or a thumbs down and people believe and trust their opinion even subconsciously; it's buying a product or doing something because that someone endorsed it and you fully see their conviction enough for you to also give it a chance — THAT is influence. And it is something much harder to build than simply growing numbers on a social media platform.
Up your game by avoiding these social media sins.