The last five years have seen explosive growth in social media engagement.
There’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and many more places to build a ‘personal brand.’ The word influencer is thrown around like “if you’re not one then you’re a failure.”
There’s no real unanimous agreement on what actually makes someone an influencer. Too many of us are chasing this title without having any clue what it is or why you should even bother to reach this ridiculous milestone.
Since 2014 I’ve built up a large online audience. I don’t tell you this to impress you; I tell you this because people call me an influencer. I hate the label. It makes me want to vomit in my mouth. The day I trade meaning for the pursuit of followers is the day I die my friends.
Let’s start with followers.
Just because someone hits follow it doesn’t mean anything.
I might like you today and then forget you tomorrow. There’s no limit on the number of meaningful or meaningless things I can follow. I’ve been in group chats we’re people literally talk about gaming social media algorithms and comparing follower counts.
Meaning has become about how many followers or how many views your video had. It doesn’t mean a thing.
A follower does not equal money.
A follower is not with you for life.
A follower can be taken away by the very social media platform that gave you this glory in the first place.
Your self-worth has nothing to do with followers. One follower, two followers, a million followers — it’s endless like digits on your internet banking homescreen.
I’m not better than you.
The word ‘influencer’ suggests I’m better than you; or I’ve had more cold showers than you; or I’ve woken up earlier than you every day; or I’ve had better green smoothies than you; or I’ve achieved more than you.
I have a confession: I’m not better than you and no so-called influencer is.
We’re all unique and come from different backgrounds. Maybe I can write a better blog post and maybe you can write a better song. One isn’t better than the other. You do you and I’ll do me.
What’s more important is that you’re living your life the way you want to and not based on my (or any other influencers) standards. Do I want you to succeed and smash your goals? Absolutely. Do I want to help you achieve those goals and tell you what helped me? For sure.
Do I want to talk down to you and make you think I’m better than you? No way. Anyone doing that to you is not an influencer; they’re someone that needs to take a long hard look at their own life.
Many of these influencers will preach one thing to you and then do something entirely different when you hang out with them at an event. Being incongruent with who you are will seriously mess you up in the head.
You don’t have to have an audience watching you.
No, you don’t.
No one has to be watching your every move. You don’t have to document everything you do and try and have a story behind every little thing in your calendar. If you like telling stories then great. There’s no obligation though to do any of that to become a successful human being that is living a meaningful life.
This world of influencer BS has made us think that you need more and more people watching what you do to have an impact. You don’t.
One of the coolest people I’ve seen helped a young man overcome drug addiction by spending a year of one-on-one time with him.
He didn’t influence millions of people; he just influenced and completely transformed one life.
You can touch a million lives once for a split second, or you can touch one person for the rest of their life and help them to do incredible things.
I too used to measure audience size like guys measure their penis size. That was until I saw no difference between 11 followers and 1000 followers or even 10,000 followers. Every increase in audience size had no emotional effect on me. You’ll experience the same thing if you play this influencer game.
Just because no ones watching, doesn’t mean you’re not doing something cool. Many of the worlds most amazing heroes are people you’ve never heard of. Eyeballs do not equate to success or meaning for your life.
Everything you achieve has meaning based on the meaning you give it.
Until you learn what success is for you and define it based on your own standards, you’ll continue to use off the shelf BS metrics like followers and audience size to tell you if you’re on the right track.
Most of it is by accident.
Let me tell you something out of the secret influencer book:
Most influencers built their audience out of luck.
They got to a platform like Facebook early when it was much more straightforward to build followers, or they started recording their video game play for fun before it was a thing that you could record and make money from.
“Most of what I’ve done online was an accident too and I’m happy to admit that”
Blogging for me was a way to come to terms with the arrogant, fearful son of a gun I’d become that wouldn’t give 5 cents out of a dollar to anybody.
I used blogging to share my experiences, tell stories and most of all to get out of my own head.
The fact that a few people listened over the years was an accident. I honestly never thought anyone other than a few close friends would ever see my work — little lone care enough to send me a thank you email.
What you see as reality is often manufactured.
As you get older, you get slapped over the face by the fact that most of what you think is reality is made up. The influencer world is no different.
Most of your favorite influencers who you’re trying to copy are not who you think they are.
Their so-called ‘transparent life’ that they are sharing with the world is mostly made up and glorified by unsuspecting strangers who ‘follow’ them.
The photos they post are taken hundreds of time (no joke).
The random moments they share are pre-planned, or they have a camera following them everywhere they go.
The smart blog articles or copy they right is often ghost-written by someone like me or one of my fellow blogger friends — betcha didn’t know that.
Influencers like anything in this world can be manufactured. Don’t be deceived.
Impact real people.
Follower counts and influencer status are not what you should be aiming for.
Impacting real human beings and having real-world connections is the actual holy grail. It’s the free lunch you get when you give up the influencer status and focus on impacting people.
Touching someone’s life will give you much more happiness/fulfillment/joy than gaining one hundred more followers. It’s impact that has been forgotten in the whole influencer distraction — and it’s not impact based on size either.
Seeing someone decide not to commit suicide after reading a blog post of mine and having a chat on Facebook was better than every follower metric, number of likes or shares I’d got for the entire year. It was a sense of purpose that could never be taken away from me.
Trade in followers and titles for impact.
Addiction to analytics.
Okay, this not another warning about your phone or social media. You’re smart enough to understand and be aware of that already.
The real issue with trying to be an influencer is that you become addicted to your analytics. Smart social media platforms are now giving you more and more data that helps you track how close you are to becoming more of an influencer. The dashboards are beautiful and they flash bright red right at the time you’re thinking of looking at them.
“The numbers get bigger no matter how bad you are at playing the influencer game because that is the game”
They now say that older people don’t play computer games, they play games like LinkedIn and Facebook instead. I think this is a very real reality because of the analytics you now get access to.
The higher the analytics are on your dashboard, the more levels up in the game you are according to the current state of play. I disagree with this whole philosophy.
It’s easy to give advice.
There are no qualifications to be an influencer, so technically everyone reading this article has just qualified to become one. Congratulations!
As an influencer, you give advice. Sometimes it’s good advice and sometimes it’s bad advice. Anyone including you can give advice. There’s no barrier to entry in this influencer game. That’s why being an influencer is not the holy grail. Your shit does stink and your advice can too.
Do it for the right reason, please.
Many influencers are doing it for the wrong reason.
If you’re trying to raise money for a good cause or solve a really challenging problem like cancer, then I salute you. Most influencers are not trying to achieve this, though.
Influence is often about ego or money. Both don’t lead anywhere on their own. That’s why I’m begging you to fulfill your goals online for the right reason. Very early in my own online journey, I became a little too interested in the money that could be made. I spent hours studying monetization until I realized I was doing it for the wrong reason.
At that time in my life, I was all about buying more stuff and being an influencer because it seemed like the way to achieve these goals. Thankfully I gave up that lifestyle and thus gave up any care factor for becoming an influencer or trying to make millions monetizing people’s attention. I believe there’s nothing wrong with making money online, but when that’s your entire focus, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.
So what title should we seek?
The man or woman with no title is just as brave as your favorite influencer.
You’re not defined by what people call you, but you are defined by what you do.
I’ve had many titles and none of them seem to fit because like all of you reading this, I’m an individual with a unique view on life. There’s no cookie cutter title that can describe you because we’re all indescribable, incredible human beings that defied the odds to be born in the first place.
No title is going to make you feel good or make you feel worthy — especially not the title of influencer. You have to make yourself feel worthy and no number of followers or likes will give you that for free.
You’re in control, remember?
Image Credit: Crazy 4 Cult / Gallery 1988