In January this year, Facebook had close to 1900 million active users. WhatsApp had 1000. Instagram came in at 600, Tumblr at 550 and Pinterest and LinkedIn hovering somewhere in the hundreds. Is there anyone who still believes that social media doesn’t wield influence? The numbers don’t lie. Here are some more numbers- A large number of teenagers-32%- think of Instagram as the most important social media network. A staggering 83% of women internet users are on Facebook. When it comes to men, it’s 75%. The millennials, 81% of them are on Twitter at least once a day. Every single demographic seems to have social media presence in numbers large or small.
Imagine if the sheer numbers have someone to look up to and listen to? This is the job of an influencer. The social media influencer uses his connection to his community, leverages his own interest to create traction for a product, brand or marketing campaign. There are those who are cynical about an influencer’s sphere of control. Is it really possible to influence social media?
At least three powerful examples show us how influencing social media is possible.
- Viral everything- the viral trend is here to stay. Think of a viral video, a tweet that gets shared over and over countless times, a comment that goes global. The viral world works on influencers. Someone posts and his followers pick it up and run with it. Social media then goes into a frenzy discussing the tweet, post, comment, or video. And influence is created.
- Memes- the meme is a powerful thing. It takes something serious or harmless and makes it something else. Memes are a social media phenomenon like nothing else. How does it generate so much power? It’s created and posted. Then it gets sent across the world; shared on Facebook pages, linked to it on blogs, forwarded on WhatsApp and then talked about. If you’re part of a meme, it’s one of the ways to know that you’ve arrived. And ordinary people are elevated to celebrity status because of a meme. The meme is a clear way to influence others. Whatever the subject of the meme is, becomes a talking point and in this way the influencer steers the conversation and the content.
- Politics- this is a big one. It’s safe to say that the recent election in the country was also fought online. Fake news is a thing and we have social media to thank for it. In fact, Facebook now has a post on how to spot fake news. Yes, it’s that big. Aggressive supporters crowded social media with views, ideas and posts about their favourite contender. They deleted comments that weren’t favourable, removed unfriendly people form groups and generally ensured that their candidate was topmost on people’s minds. This is true of the Brexit vote as well.
We are swayed by what we read around us, especially if our friends and people we admire talk about something. Politics is a hot button topic anyway and we can see it in the way we talk about elections and exits.
Influence works because people want to be influenced. This is an important factor in the entire equation. They want guidance, in some cases expert advice, in some a platform to hold a discussion or debate. Influencers fill this requirement in more ways than one.
Where you might need to be careful is to not confuse popularity with influence. People may visit your page, may even comment and engage in conversation and argument. Does that mean you also control or dictate the way they do things? Having a large circle of friends or followers, a long blog readers list or many people who follow you on Twitter or Instagram may not be enough to call yourself an influencer.