An influencer -by definition- is someone who is able to influence others.
Typically the word is used to signify an influence on opinions, however there was a perfectly suitable pre-existing word for this: Opinion Leader.
What is so different between an opinion leader and an influencer, that we chose two use two entirely different names and categories?
One interesting note is that Influencers’ field of action is usually restricted to their specific area of expertise; by comparison old style Opinion Leaders tended to be considered all-knowing beings worth consulting at just about any time.
The most notable aspect for me to note here is however that influencers are a paradigm of our century, and as such they live a symbiotic relationship with their audience; a relationship that just wouldn’t be possible in a world where internet and social media aren’t yet ubiquitous.
An influencer authoritativeness is decided by the audience in two ways:
- individually, deciding at the time of reading if the author’s views are sound and seem trustworthy, and
- as a mass, through likes, shares, and similarly “democratic” mechanisms
This is entirely different than becoming an authority because an elitè in charge of controlling mass media communication decided to ask someone’s opinion and spread it as widely as possible.
On the other hand this means they are only influencers for so long as what they say is considered influential, so who’s really influencing whom here? Are they really influencing the mass, or are they just better than others at reading what the mass already likes, feels and wants, which translates in the ability to gather as many likes as possible?
This second scenario works just fine while applied on marketing (the next outfit, the next rap, the next tech), but when applied to politics it becomes unsettling as it would imply that masses do not authentically recognize and follow a leader anymore. It would imply that the internet gave the mass an ability to self-determinate: to elect a spokesperson of the day, and change them when their alignment becomes less than satisfactory. This would also explain the current political climate that many observer describe as “fluid”.
If this was confirmed it would be an epochal change with unpredictable consequences: after centuries where the leadership was appointed to people, we’ll step towards a time in which leadership belongs to ideas.