Sorry — Part II

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I was enjoying the perspective of this past weekend’s New York Times op-ed on influencers, when I came upon this comment (posted above) in the feedback section.

Bingo.

Thank goodness other people see this glaring problem. To use an example from the article:

Four years ago, when Ms. Alzate first came to VidCon, she was a marketing student with fewer than 7,000 subscribers. She decided to study her favorite YouTubers, watch how they made their videos and then test videos in multiple genres, seeing which ones performed best on her channel.

Eventually, she hit on formats — like beauty tips and lifehacks — that reliably performed well, and she was off to the races. Today, she is a full-time YouTuber with a small staff, a production studio and the kind of fame she once coveted.

And this is supposed to be a good thing?!

To the point of NYT reader Jai from Newton, MA (and my own from a week ago): if everyone is following these influencers, simply to study their patterns so that they too can be influencers, where do the sales happen? If consumers aren’t buying as a result of their efforts, it’s not influencing. It’s just a popularity pyramid scheme.

You can definitely make the case (and the author does) that there are serious business skills one can learn by setting up his or her own influencer account. Companies study other companies all the time, and the most successful often steal or buy what they can’t create on their own. But the fact that these kids are mimicking the actions of others for the sole purpose of gaining popularity and fame, that’s another story. When I was a kid we didn’t call these people influencers. We called them posers.

And we went out of our way to avoid them, not follow their lead.

-David Driscoll