What are the secrets of social media influencers and why are they so powerful? When their messaging is seen on Tik-Tok or another social media platform, we can view their marketing techniques and unique visions through a lens of judgement or we can learn from them and embrace the lessons they teach. Especially since influencers are masters at the art of connection.
In a recent article that appeared in Forbes magazine, editor Steven Bertoni and several staff members, detail the Top Creators for 2023. The social media influence they create, much like the ripples of a boulder dropped into a lake, is enormous.
Those who follow these influencers number about 26 billion, and the influencers themselves make about $700 million from their efforts. Behind that, are the major brands influenced. Not surprising, the brands spend a combined $21 billion in creator marketing. Here’s a shocker in regard to their influence; only 7 years ago all of the brands spent $1.7 billion combined.
Said Erin Lanuti, chief innovation officer at Omnicom PR Group: “Influencers are more trusted by their audiences than ads. They can sell out products in minutes. They can cause a flash mob that shuts down a major city.”
The influencers might often be people whose names are completely unknown to you. However, it is their creativity, whether through music, dance, humor, unique perspectives and life experiences that attract brands to their dynamism. And it works.
Not everyone is Taylor Swift
While Taylor Swift does not share a stage with the Top Creators, she clearly shares a similar influencer stage with her own followers. As I write this, she and Travis Kelce have marked their official relationship debut.
When Taylor Swift showed up at a Kansas City Chiefs game a few weeks back, the Kelce NFL jersey sales, at about $90 a piece, jumped 400-percent. That’s not a bad thing either. It shows how effectively influence works. By the way, Kelce now enjoys something like 500,000 followers on social media, a lot of it due to Swift’s influence.
Of course, “not everyone” can be a Taylor Swift however, Taylor Swift and her entire staff have feverishly worked to get her to that point of influence. Had she and her professional team not worked to get her to this point, she would have been just as talented, of course, but nowhere near as influential.
Swift recently launched the Eras Tour movie and it became the highest-grossing domestic concert film ever. But why?
A key that I will explore further a little later on, is nicely summarized in an August 2023 piece that appeared in the Harvard Gazette: There is a strong social and emotional bond that people feel with her…in the case of Taylor, there’s a couple of things going on. The first piece is relatability…the lyrical content as well as the emotions that underlie the lyrical content — are very relatable to a lot of people. There’s something that is very common to the human experience.”
Her audience relates to her, and second, they witness her authenticity. She expresses the universal pains we all feel. She includes her audience in her life experiences.
Inclusivity not exclusivity
A recent, Harvard Business Review article, What Makes an Inclusive Leader identified four important leadership attributes relating to inclusivity: they strive for authenticity rather than “being leaders,” inclusive leaders redefine the rules rather than unquestioningly obeying them, they embrace active learning and in everything they do they ensure equal opportunity.
It is perfectly acceptable for the leader to be vulnerable rather than dictatorial (“I have no super-power,” to allow those who follow them to think and act for themselves, to learn and think and question and to celebrate what makes everyone special. It is not, “them and us, but all of us in this together.” Inclusivity is beautiful; exclusivity is not.
You and your organization may not be geniuses in creating award-winning material that will get hundreds of millions of views; you may not be a great singer-songwriter, comedian, dancer or a professional football player, but you can influence and change your corner of the world.
The distillation of everything I have mentioned becomes the groundwork and foundation of the 3 strategies to apply to both you and your organization from today’s biggest influencers:
- Keep it real. Call it authenticity or “getting real,” or leading with compassion, every media influencer teaches us what the wisdom of our grandmothers instinctively knew when they said, “I can spot a phony from a mile away!” So can employees, association members, industry media, the electronic media and most importantly, customers. As I was preparing this blog, a friend called about her biggest takeaway from seeing Taylor Swift in the luxury box at Arrowhead Stadium. Said my friend: “Taylor Swift was cleaning up her cups, utensils and plastic dishes, like she was one of us after company left.” She wasn’t aware the cameras were on her. Who are we when the lights are turned off? Are we the same? Are we mindful in our actions? Are we being authentic?
- Be consistent. If the message is to celebrate greater diversity or to be ethical or to be a better listener or to be greener or to become better citizens in the community, be that organization, be that leader. Words are cheap, real actions aren’t. Please remember this is 2023, not 1953; what you do and what you say must align, and if not, the inconsistencies will be quickly discovered. The best of influencers are scrupulous with consistently aligning their messaging with who they are as people.
- Provide Value. Ever influencer (and that can be you) must provide a real sense of worth to their position. What are the values you represent, and can they be better? True, Taylor Swift has a beautiful voice, and she is a wonderful songwriter, but her real value is that she is not afraid to be human. For she knows, as we know, that fame is fleeting and off-that-stage and in the crowd, she is not much different than any of us, nor is any other influencer. What are you giving others, what do you hope the world sees in you, and what will your values do to elevate those around you?
When all is said and done, our influence is much like those ripples in the large pond; they last only so long, but they will in turn, enhance and empower all of us.