What is the role of a #FinTech influencer?

Image source

So I passed a few milestones on social media this week…

🏁 On Monday I tweeted my 10,000th tweet

🏆 On Tuesday I was ranked #1 in the Jay Palter FinTech100 list of global FinTech influencers

🏁 On Wednesday I passed 20,000 followers milestone

🏆 On Thursday I was ranked #3 in the Global #FinTech 2015 Top100 FinTech Influencers and Brands list by Joe Fields at @Onalytica

🏆 On Friday I was ranked joint #1 in the @CityAm UK FinTech Powerlist of most influential people in UK FinTech

Milestones are great and i’m honoured by the accolades but it got me thinking about what actually is the role of a FinTech influencer or influencers in general…

What are influencers?

I did a bit of googling and was fascinated by what I found. Firstly social media influencing is big business, particularly in industries like Fashion, high-end Retail and Politics. There are superstars out there like Taylor Swift (67 Million twitter followers) whose influence extends way beyond their original industry and can make even the mighty Apple tremble. There are industry influencers like Marc Andreessen (447k twitter followers) that lead the discussion and set the agenda within a particular vertical or market and there are demographic influencers like Bethany Mota (9.5+million YouTube subscribers) that appeal to a particular socioeconomic group.

They all have some things in common though. Reach — clearly they all have huge followings across at least one social media channel and often appear offline too. Trust — they are consistent, knowledgeable and respected in their field of expertise. They don’t necessarily have to be independent but they should be transparent in their values/goals. Content — they put out a steady stream of high quality content that appeals to their follower base.

What is the role of an Influencer?

YouTube star PewDiePie

Their roles can be varied but seem to fall into these broad categories:

Marketing (selling stuff, pushing products and services, influencing purchasing decisions, raising brand awareness)

Spokesperson (channeling view of the masses, amplifying the voices of the few, raising important issues, representing an organisation or entity)

Thought Leader (setting the agenda, driving the debate, educating, curating content, sharing knowledge/opinions/artefacts)

Entertainer (sartorical comment, popular culture content, amusing observations, media creator)

So what about #FinTech Influencers…

What does it take to become a #FinTech Influencer?

Image source: http://jaypalter.ca/2015/12/top-100-fintech-influencers/

FinTech (Financial Technology) is an emerging subset of the much larger Financial Services industry. It is an industry that has been slow to adopt social media and has traditionally been led by large faceless hierarchical institutions and trade bodies. As such, the entry requirements for becoming a #FinTech influencer are far lower than say the Music industry. Let’s look at the stats…

I interact over a number of relevant social media channels like LinkedIn Facebook, Instagram and Slideshare but the primary one for me is Twitter. I got into Twitter in a big way about 18 months ago when I was working out in Silicon Valley and found it a good tool for following the FinTech news there. I’ve since moved through the influencer cycle from content consumer to content curator and creator and steadily grown a follower base to about 20k followers…

@cgledhill Twitter followers March 2014– December 2015 — Stats Via ManageFlitter

Twitter follower counts are notoriously unreliable given the number of dormant/bot/fake accounts around but Twitter Audit gives an adjusted figure…

Stats from Twitter Audit

This equates to about 1m impressions (# times people see my tweets) a month, 200+ Retweets or Likes a day and a 2.5% engagement rate.

@cgledhill stats. You can view your own stats at analytics.twitter.com!

In total I reckon I spend about 30 minutes a day on social media (usually stuck on the train between East Croydon and London Bridge!) and offline I speak at 3 #FinTech conferences and events per week on average, so it’s quite a time investment!

What can a #FinTech influencer influence?

I guess it depends on your area of expertise s0 I can’t speak for the other FinTech folks but for me it is 4 things:

Promoting Disruptive Technology in Financial Services—I’m passionate about technologies like Blockchain, VR, Deep learning, Mobile, Wearables, Meshnets, Beacons, Biometrics & Big Data and I believe having more of it in FS will be game changing.

Reinventing Banking — I’m on a personal mission to reinvent banking both technically and conceptually. I believe there are fundamental parts of banking that are just wrong, there are other parts (e.g. privacy, data ownership, API mgmt) that are developing in unhealthy ways and I’d like to steer these discussions.

Marketing My Company — I recently founded Secco, a UK (currently Pre-licenced) challenger bank. Marketing Secco within the FinTech community is a good way to attract talent, investment and identify collaboration opportunities. Expect shameless plugs on my twitter feed!

Industry Advocacy—Banking took a reputational hit during the recent financial crisis and still has a long way to go to rebuild trust. This is not a PR activity but a shift in how banks operate, their priorities and their focus. Banking is once again facing a coming storm — this time it’s not a financial one but an instability as banking undergoes a conceptual step-change at the hands of disruptive innovators. The change is inevitable but an orderly transition is preferable.

What next?

As FinTech continues to grow over the next few years the role of FinTech Influencers will become increasingly important. New business models will emerge, new challengers will challenge, new tech will expand what is possible. Trade bodies and industry groups are consensus-seeking beasts so often lack pace. Incumbent bankers struggle to hold controversial public opinions without their PR department taking issue. So it’s left to influencers to spot the opportunities and threats, set the agenda and drive the debate.