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Neither an Influencer or a Follower Be? Or Be Careful as Either

Whether you’re leading or following, be yourself, be humble, and be so, so careful

Image by Chaay_Tee on Getty Images Pro, edited by Author

You hear a lot about “influencers” these days on social media. What exactly is an influencer? (Are you one? Do you follow any?)

If you look up the word “influence,” you get synonyms such as inspiration, impact, stimulus, encouragement, guidance. You also get sway, authority, weight, control, pressure, pull, and hold. As a verb, “influence” means to manipulate, persuade, induce, prompt, motivate, inspire, shape, and guide.

An “influencer,” of course, is someone who influences. Insert your synonym of choice.

So let me address you, the “influencer,” right now. Yes, you know WHO your “followers” are — vaguely, so I’m told — but do you know HOW you’re influencing them? (Better still, do you care how you’re influencing them?) As a social media society, we’ve anointed people as being “influencers,” typically those individuals who have hundreds of thousands (even millions) of “followers.”

(Well, we know what a follower is — right? Someone who “hangs on the every word of the influencer”? Not my words, just checking out the Internet, you know). So, to BE an influencer, you have to have followers.

If you’re a follower

Why follow an “influencer,” someone who is trying to manipulate, prompt, persuade, induce or shape/guide you? Well, let’s look more at the side of influencing relative to “motivating, inspiring, guiding” — those sound better. Does your influencer motivate you (to do anything other than buy a product they are shilling)?

If not, then why do you look to them as an influencer? Do they inspire you to do bigger and better things — or are they focused on inspiring you to do stupid stuff and post it, or are they again attempting to inspire you towards something THEY are getting paid for?

Is your influencer a “guide” for you? (I won’t get into spiritual, moral, or personal guidance — let’s just use guide as a general term.) Or are they simply guiding you toward what THEY want? So, this all brings up the serious question — why are you allowing this particular person to influence you?

If you’re an influencer

And you, influencer, what motivates YOU? Actually, in some research for this particular subject, I asked 18 people (whom I know and who are considered influencers), “What drives you to be influencing other people?” The answers were varied, but close in comparison:

  • “I really love the $$$”;
  • “I am driven by gathering more and more and more followers!”;
  • “I like having control over my followers”;
  • “I just think it’s cool” (seriously — someone said that. I’m not kidding); and finally,
  • “It feels good to contribute.”

Okay, look. Just thinking it’s cool or liking having control doesn’t work for me. However, doing it just for the money (hey, I get it — we’ve all got to do it), and contributing are reasonable concepts. But the odd aspect, to me, was the primary answer I received, “I’m doing it for the fame/attention.”

We all know Andy Warhol’s philosophic quote about “everyone getting their 15 minutes of fame.” (The actual quote is, by the way, “In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes.”) So, how’s your 15 minutes as a influencer?

The bigger picture

I did a little research for this piece. Globally, as of January 2021, 4.66 billion users are active on the Internet. (That’s a LOT of bandwidth use, seeing as only 7.9 billion people exist!) and 2.59 billion of them have a Facebook account. Do you still feel famous with your 600,000 followers? Does it make you feel better, or worse, to know you are “influencing” 0.1287% of the global user base?

You’d be more of a presence if you had close to 50 million followers. That would at least put you at 1 percent of the world’s users. Regardless, we all know statistics often pose more questions than answers, but this should give you a little background on your “influence.”

(For instance, the biggest Instagram influencer is Cristiano Ronaldo at nearly 320 million followers, or nearly 7% of global users).

What is your why?

So why are you influencing? Are you making your corner of the internet a better place? Are you enriching people’s lives, making them better for having followed you, and do you encourage them (or discourage them?)?

And you, if you’re following, why do you follow these people? (I mean, if you’re following me, you don’t need to answer. I’m sure it’s because you can’t help yourself. I’m charming and filled with wit and wisdom that adds value to your life. 😉 )

But if you’re following influencers because “everyone else does” or “because they make me laugh” or “because I want to be like them” are not valid answers. You have a finite amount of time in life (more on that in another piece) and you need to be YOURSELF, not someone else — and you need to be the best self you can become.

You need to gather positive influences. You need to be an individual. There’s nothing wrong with being a follower; just use your time wisely and seek out the best influencers you can find.

If you’re an influencer, recognize you have an enormous responsibility. Consider how you impact others, and how you would want them to remember you, how you would want to be impacted yourself! As the great Scottish poet Robert Burns said (in this last stanza of “The Louse,” translated):

“Oh, would some Power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!”

How DO others see you?

It’s a good question to ask yourself, whether you’re an influencer or a follower. Or both.

Mark S Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues. UF Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the lab to the market, making the world a better place.

Originally published at http://incubatorblogger.wordpress.com on August 10, 2021.

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UF Innovate connects innovators with entrepreneurs, investors and industry; incubates startups and growth companies; and fosters a resilient innovation ecosystem — all in an effort to make the world a better place.

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UF Innovate

UF Innovate

Tech Licensing, Ventures, Pathways, and Accelerate, which includes two business incubators, The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech. We build business on innovation.

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