My spontaneous answer to the question in the topic would be: yes, there are not enough people to follow everyone giving themselves the title influencer anymore. Or are there? I still see potential growth in influencer marketing, but I think it’s time for a redefintion of the word itself. What is an influencer nowadays?
I believe we have several different categories. I would probably divide them into three main categories: traditional influencers, people good at a certain something, and thought leaders. The first category, the traditional influencers, is the one that basically makes me react every time someone tries to call me one. My journey as an influencer has never been to promote things per se, but to take people on a journey. My journey was that of a fashion editor traveling the world attending every fashion week possible. I wore quirky outfits, yet true to myself, and that was something people enjoyed. They got to go along for the ride from the comfort of their homes. The traditional influencer category is the one I truly find saturated. How many out there can genuinely be interested in thousands and yet thousands of boys and girls who look exactly the same with their pouty lips and perfectly edited images. I guess that would be the same audience who actually enjoys Love Island, Ex on the Beach, and similar shows on TV. For me, these people add nothing of value and I have no time to waste on them. Unfortunately, the term influencer has been hijacked by these people.
For me, a true influencer is in the latter categories I mentioned above. Someone who is really good at a hobby, sport, cooking, crafts, or whatever comes to mind are people who actually add substance to one’s spare time and both inspire and give you tips and tricks on how to evolve in your area of interest. They put down a lot of time to create how-to videos or something else that makes your pastime more fun. One example is Darryn Melerine, a guy who lives for sports and was just looking for a platform to express himself and to share his pictures. I wouldn’t say he became an influencer involuntarily, but he most certainly wasn’t one of those who would walk over dead bodies to claim fame. He showed the world something he was good at and the world began following him. In time he began posting more than just workout-related content and found himself signing contracts with Budweiser and Lyft. He is a pro in martial arts and fitness and that was the way he began his trip to become what I would call an ambassador for his trade.
When it comes to thought leaders, these were formerly referred to as key opinion leaders, but whatever you call them, they have always existed since the dawn of time. Some people just have more to say than others, or at least know how to phrase it to make it interesting. These people are now on our social media platforms as well and qualify as influencers. I would say the term influencer would need to be reclaimed by the latter two groups.
Not only does the term need reclaiming. Influencers need to reinvent themselves and so does the influencer marketing industry. According to a recent article on “Global Influencer Marketing Platform Industry Report 2020-2025” discussing trends within influencer marketing, the industry is still growing exponentially. With influencers not only moving to new platforms and new types of content, but the audience also becomes more demanding. It’s not enough to just flash a product one day, to say a product from a competing brand is equally good or better the next. Being an influencer today is much about building a relationship with your followers. They know what they like and what they will get when they follow you, but you must equally much know your audience. Just like Darryn Melerine turned down a makeup brand as it wouldn’t fit his profile (nor would his audience understand what he was up to), it is very important not to be a sellout. Your followers are smarter than that! It’s a fine line between making enough to pay your bills, providing authentic content, or being a pure sellout. I think the balance is to be found somewhere between making money while remaining true to yourself.
I might have begun on a somewhat defensive note when it comes to the term influencer itself, but whatever you prefer to call yourself, if you influence others in their decisions, you are an influencer. My hope is you will be a good one, not solely driven by fame and fortune.