Skeptic Dope: “Influencer”

[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.]

Influencer

– [noun] Traffic Driver

– [Archaic] Person (or entity) who influences

Modern Usage

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 However, this usage of the word is now generally considered outdated.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Curious readers may wonder how the modern usage correlates with the outdated one.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.

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  • http://twitter.com/surekhapillai Surekha Pillai

    influence must be one of the most abused words after insight. i see top 10 lists on twitter churned out purely on the basis of follower count which makes no sense to me. i wish i could actually know who the real influencers are…and by real influencers i mean people who can actually help influence decisions and opinion on niche topics. has anyone evolved a formula or framework for this? i also see biases impacting influence..not all 'influencers' disclose their interests while pushing/promoting an idea or a product..the interests need not necessarily be in the form of a client-agency relationship, but also friendship..these could also come in the way of measuring real influence.

  • http://www.manuprasad.com Manu Prasad

    i think it will evolve going forward because trends like 'influencers' are pushing all web based publishing towards the very things MSM was hated for? services like 'quora' are perhaps a step in the right direction.. damn, i haven't logged in this week 😐

  • http://twitter.com/surekhapillai Surekha Pillai

    i clicked on 'like' instead of 'reply' by mistake 😐 i am not sure about quora's influence once it becomes mass.

  • http://www.manuprasad.com Manu Prasad

    yup, hence the step.. once upon a time blogs and even twitter was 'ideal'.. the mass got to it, so maybe a leap is needed, a gap the mass can't bridge easily.. that sounds evil and 'elitist' though 😀

  • http://twitter.com/karaikudy Karthik@karaikudy(i)

    Very valid thoughts; The word HYPE is becoming synonymous with Influencer. More like a Herd of sheep following the Shepard. I feel comfortable to be influenced by less known, less opinionated person who brings in a change in me rather a so called influencer. The whole context is changing these days. Well captured..

  • http://twitter.com/RakeshThukral Rakesh Thukral

    influence is like interest in a bank deposit. less you use (withdraw) more is grows

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Thanks, Karthik.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    The formula is to play golf and drink beer with Silicon Valley insiders. Half joking! :)

    Almost always, all “influencers” have agendas. You are right.

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    The most influential is the one who increases the wealth of the world by a larger margin. Attention manipulation or gaming, isn't influence. Speaking honestly and reliably about areas one deeply cares about is influence. One is real, the other is fleeting.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Well said, Mark!

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