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Influencers of today are radically different from influencers of the past

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I was watching TV the other day and saw a short report about a gathering of influencers. It was pretty funny to watch. A crowd of youngsters was filmed who tried to explain to the reporter why they were there and what they did for a living.
– “I’m an influencer” one teenager said.
– “What does it mean ?” the reporter asked
– “well, you see, I influence people. I do videos and other people watch them. You see?”

It was pretty obvious from his answers that this young man had but a vague idea of what the heart of his “job” was. Yet he was one of many other people of his age invited at this gathering organized by a commercial firm.
This crowd represent today the holy grail of firms to reach one of the most versatile segment of the market : the 12-24. They are the best placed to convey commercial messages to a seemingly unreachable target: the 12-24.

This made me reflect of how the DNA of influencers has changed in the last 10 years or so.
20 years ago (and even more before that) infuencing others was reserved to some very charismatic people : politicians, actors, leading scientists. All of them were able to get a share of citizens’ attention through their discourse, the seriousness of their argument, their litteracy in one particular subject. Robert Cialdini, a Harvard professor who studied persuasion, called this the authority factor.

Today, “influencers” are not influencing anymore through the seriousness of their arguments. Their influence comes from their entertaining power, from their capacity to speak the same language as the fans of their generation (which is completely out of reach for regular marketeers). They have built a very powerful monopoly of communication to the younger audience.

In short

It is striking to see that the basis for influencing others has changed in the last two decades. Influence was rooted in one’s expertise and quality of argumentation. Today entertaining people is as valuable as expertise and has promoted hundreds of young people to the status of influencers.

Image : shutterstock

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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