Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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Influencers
You have, probably, heard the expression “monetized.” Specifically, it means using something as a source of profit. A modern example of monetization is the social media site, Nextdoor. What a genius development plan that was. Nextdoor platform creators got local people all over the country to create neighborhood networks. The locals were all volunteers. These bright, tech-savvy people worked without pay to connect community members. Nextdoor became a great way to get local information out. Nextdoor sites popped up all over the country and even went international. When it was really well established, the creators/investors monetized it. They started selling ads and tracking users’ activity, collecting data they could market. Cha-ching! Nextdoor became publicly traded on the NY Stock Exchange in 2021 and now takes in tens of millions of dollars for its creators (not the volunteers running the local sites). The point is, monetizing means big money on social media. This brings me to the subject of this article, a new breed of marketers called Influencers. What is a Social Media Influencer? According to Wired Magazine, an Influencer is “someone with the power to affect the buying habits or quantifiable actions of others by uploading some form of original, often sponsored, content to social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Tik Tok or LinkedIn.” In 2023, there are over 4.89 billion people using social media. A lot of these people take their buying, voting, and action cues from individuals who make regular posts about certain topics on their social media site and generate large followings of people who pay close attention to their views (truly, a cyber-nation of sheep). Influencers can range from celebrities pushing all kinds of products (mega influencers who can charge up to a million dollars per ad on their posts) to individuals who have specific knowledge appealing to a very narrow niche market (nano or micro influencers). Guess what a lot of young teens want to grow up to be? An Influencer! It offers two very seductive enticements, money and fame. Who wants to slog through four years of undergrad and eight years of medical school when it is possible to make a fortune in your teens as a social media Influencer doing spi outs on the Sixth Street Viaduct Bridge? The power that is given to Influencer darlings is astounding, whether it involves consumer goods, politics, health or behavioral actions. Small wonder that ABC reports, “If given the opportunity, 54 percent of Gen Z and millennials would become an Influencer and 86 percent are willing to post sponsored content for money, according to a 2019 report by the research firm, Morning Consult.” Who needs college? How Do You Become an Influencer? An Influencer picks a platform to work from like Tik Tok, creates a business account and begins creating content on a specific subject. It could be cooking or fashion or skateboarding, trout fishing, uses for dental floss, anything. The Influencer creates a channel on their chosen platform. They create a profile of themselves through an engaging bio and a picture. It is important to make strong, emotional connections with the followers. Next, the Influencer must create a content strategy. This begins by defining goals like educating the audience, creating brand awareness, building credibility, creating demand for more and more content and so on. Once the Influencer starts posting content, they will get likes and comments. It is important to engage with the followers to develop loyalty and emotional connection. After building a name for themselves, Influencers reach out to brands relevant to their niche and solicit advertising from them. Then, the money starts coming in. If their following is big enough, advertisers find them. There are many legitimate Influencers who truly produce excellent content regarding their interest. For example, a home cook who shares recipes about a specific style of cuisine can grow a vast following. Food or cooking equipment brands then buy ad space on that platform. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Unfortunately, there are bad actors and con-artists in the Influencer realm who are far from beneficial. The Dark Side of Influencer Life It is hard to believe people would follow con artists, fraudsters, exhibitionists, deviants and others, but the social media platform algorithms are specifically designed to addict users within the first half-hour of use, and they work. Many followers make unhealthy attachments to Influencers. Lulled by a false sense of belonging to a “community,” users compulsively check influencers’ accounts and feel disconnected or lost if they can’t. You have to get noticed to build a following, and a lot of the things people have done to get noticed are dangerous, cruel, exploitive and downright sick. Influencers start trends that are highly dangerous, especially among teens, like the “Slap a Teacher Challenge,” “The Bright Eye Challenge” (involving bleach, hand sanitizer, jelly and shaving cream) and numerous car challenges that lead to horrible consequences. Check the dark side out online, especially if you have kids. Be a Good Influence My first year of teaching, I asked my students what their life goals were. Over and over I heard, “Rich!” “Famous!” “Rich!” “Famous!” I was so amazed. I told them, “Look! Being rich or famous are not goals. They are by-products of actually accomplishing something real.” Genuine Influencers develop their strengths and talents and put them to good use in the world! Sometimes they change one person’s life; sometimes, they change…everything. Vamos a ver!
Paula Labrot

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