My first recollection of a best friend was this kid named Joshua (I can’t remember his surname for the life of me). I was maybe 5 or 6, but I remember Joshua was from a middle-class family. To give context, I schooled in a pretty elite primary school, and typically, in each classroom, you would have sons and daughters of the wealthiest people around.
However, in a class which had some super-rich kids, Joshua was the boy everyone wanted to be friends with. Even at such a young age, Joshua was by far the most popular kid in school, the coolest kid around. We all wanted to talk like him, look like him, we wanted to be him.
He didn’t have fancy toys or fancy shoes, but he had something that made him very endearing. looking back at it now, it’s safe to say he had influence.
Fast forward some 18 years later and I’m in an interview for a marketing communications intern. The interviewee seems slightly nervous, and to help ease her nerves, we ask what we thought was a pretty straightforward question: Who’s an influencer? She replies, “My Father.”
Her reply stuns everybody in the room and some of us even chuckle at her response. Obviously, her father did not have a million followers on social media, nor was he a world-renowned entertainer, so how could he possibly be an influencer, right?
The idea of influence and influencer in the context of marketing communications is typically someone who has the power to cause an effect on others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience. After all, influencer marketing exists solely to help brands convert customers and it is the reason why reports suggest that businesses are making $5.20 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.
However, as marketing communications people, we can sometimes forget that influence in its purest form isn’t only what we see on social media. It’s not just the likes, retweets, or comments. And you really can’t blame us for a somewhat skewed perspective, especially with as high as 67% of marketing communications professionals constantly engaging with influencers for content promotion.
This kind of relationship between brands, marketing professionals and influencers can sometimes stereotype the definition of what influence is or should be.
BHM’s Global day of Influence, which kicks off on November 22, 2020, could be the first step in helping us recognise that in our own little way, we have the power to cause the change that we hope to see in the world, we all are, in our little ways, influencers.
You may have 10 followers, 20, or even no follower. Heck, you may not even be on social media, but as long as you’ve got a voice, and you’ve got people who listen, then maybe you just are more influential than you think.
In the 18 years between my first “influencer” experience and my epiphany during that strange interview, the world changed, the internet evolved and we were blessed (and cursed) with social media. However, with a day dedicated to reminding us of our individual and collective influence, maybe we are on a verge of witnessing a new, and much-needed translation to the word “influence”.