Spike Jones: They’re not influencers, they’re broadcasters

Influence, influence, influence. We’re all talking about it – even if it’s only to complain about everyone talking about it (guilty). We’re trying to measure it. Quantify it. Identify it. Use it. Abuse it. Claim it. And the list goes on and on…

Of course, I’ve weighed in with my fair share of thoughts about how we’re making steps towards some sort of standard, but from the looks of things right now, we’re a long way off.

But I digress.

The point of this post is that I really don’t think that we should label those social media kids that brands try to get in front of as influencers. We should call them what they are: broadcasters.

If you haven’t read this gem of a post written by Zack Bussey that goes inside the mind of a typical “social media influencer” entitled “Social Media Influencers Suck,” you need to.

We feel we deserve it because of what we do after receiving it – we blog, tweet and share it on Facebook. Our blog readers read it, our thousands of followers on Twitter see it and our close friends on Facebook listen to what we say. Simply stated, we give you access to the people we know, and we’re giving it to you rather cheaply.

Read the whole thing. Seriously.

But when you read all the articles about what influence is and isn’t, when you dig into Klout and Kred and all the things written about them, when you get right down to it: these people are broadcasters. And that means that we’re back in a typical media placement cycle. Okay, maybe not typical, but you get the idea. There is an audience. There is a brand who wants access to the audience. A transaction takes place – sometimes paid, sometimes an experience, sometimes “gifted.” And then the brand is placed in front of audience for a limited amount of time.

Being on the PR/Branding/Marketing Communications side of the fence, I watch in awe at how a handful of these bloggers/influencers behave. And I’m fascinate at how these people – who claim to be marketing professionals – react and attack brands. Even at times holding them hostage. And they would never advise a client to act that way online. Yes, there are times when being outraged is warranted (like when they’re deliberately deceived) but other times, come on. They’re even attacking the very companies that have helped them get where they are. And on a side note, do they think that more brands will want to hire them because of this behavior? Do you think that more brands will even approach them in the future? Not likely.

I believe that they days of the social media influencer – as we know them – are numbered. A time is quickly approaching when brands will realize that there are other – more effective – ways to reach their audience and that in fact social media influencers are gatekeepers with no gates at all. They will be obsolete. And the playing field will be level.

Originally published 1o October 2011 on Spike Jones’s blog