[Starting a new series of posts – Skeptic Dope. These are meant to be fun posts that cut through the hype and simply tell you what some things really mean. I hope to make them a mix of The Straight Dope and The Devil’s Dictionary.]
– [noun] Traffic Driver
– [Archaic] Person (or entity) who influences
In today’s social media and online context, an influencer is a person or entity (blog, etc.) who drives traffic. When such influencers link to or share a blog post, article, or video, a lot of bots and people follow them to read or view it.
These influencers become very important to Internet marketers and Social Media Experts.
Some ingenuous folks take the concept further to drive more traffic by writing about how to become influential, how to measure your influence, how to attract the attention of influencers, how to influence the influencers, and so on. This leads to more and more traffic bringing smiles to the ingenuous folks.
Old Usage (In Technology)
Steve Jobs drives a lot of traffic to Apple Stores in the form of human queues, and is an influencer in Technology. The engineers working behind the scenes on high-traffic websites such as Google Search influence a lot of people’s lives in how much time they spend on them. Similarly, the Microsoft engineers whose code resulted in the dreaded Blue Screen of Death have wasted (and thus influenced) countless person hours of productivity in human history. These are just a few examples of how people can be influential in technology.
Since such people are usually not active in social media, only a few old-fashioned people may refer to them as influencers today.
Archaic Usage (In Real Life)
People who influenced your thinking and life decisions, such as your parents, mentors, teachers, peers, and friends were referred to as influencers in a bygone era. These also included giants who altered the course of human history in politics, science, and philosophy. However, this usage of the word is now generally considered outdated.
Does Traffic = Influence?
Curious readers may wonder how the modern usage correlates with the outdated one.
Nokia sold 21.5 million smartphones in Q1 2010, while Apple sold 8.8 million iPhones. Which company is more influential?
Mashable has more traffic and Twitter followers (2 million) than TechCrunch (1.3 million). Which blog is more influential?
The next time you encounter the word “influencer”, check the context in which it is being used, and ask yourselves which of the above is more important to you.