“Influencer” vs. “Having Influence”

I’ve been struggling the past couple months with the concept of being an “influencer.” It seems that no matter where I look, everyone and their grandma are labeling themselves as an influencer. In my mindset, the distinction is that an influencer has a platform and they use it for a cause greater than themselves. Most times, this is a platform outside of, or in addition to social media, but that is not always the case.

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I love people, and I believe each individual should be empowered and supported in pursuing their passions. However, I do have strong feelings about the current direction of the influencer market. Being an “influencer” isn’t a legitimate job title, like being the Head Engineer at Boeing or CMO of Target, so it is more of a self-proclaimed title. Now, this is not a problem. If being an “influencer” is where your passions lie and it speaks to you, then go for it! However, I think it is vital to understand the differences between being an “influencer” and “having influence.”

Every single person on this earth has influence over themselves, over their decisions and over their actions. We also have influence over others, the products they purchase and the decisions they make. This is such a powerful tool! To me, the distinction is that the term influencer means you are providing a service and using your influence for some greater purpose.

I watched an Instagram story a few days ago where a woman was collaborating with a local restaurant. In this video, she called herself a “food influencer.” Cool concept, but I have no idea what that means! Did she have influence over the flavors that were blended together to create the perfect combination of tangy and sweet? If so, wouldn’t that make her a chef? Or, was she trying to influence people to eat at the restaurant? The terminology wasn’t clear what she was using the word “influencer” to achieve.

Remember all the way back to elementary school when you first discovered the thesaurus? You were so excited to use new and exciting words that made you sound as mature and professional as you felt. You proceeded to incorporate these words into your vocabulary to utilize your newfound toy. The word “happy” was replaced with “intoxicated” and now you say, “the first time I went camping I was intoxicated,” rather than, “the first time I went camping I was happy.” These sentences have two VERY different meanings although the words are considered synonymous.

That’s how I feel about the word influencer. People search their profession in the thesaurus, and when it regurgitates “influencer” they decide it sounds trendier and exciting than their actual title. In my example above about the “food influencer,” why didn’t she say she was a food connoisseur? Now, that immediately captures my attention!

Whenever people say the influencer market is oversaturated, I both agree and disagree, because every market worth being in has competition and therefore saturation. However, when we all begin labeling ourselves as “influencers,” we are taking so much power away from our unique skill sets and talents. When we are all trying to fit into what we consider the “influencer mold,” we are creating oversaturation.

Instead of calling myself an “influencer” just for the sake of using a buzzword, I can say I am a woman-empowerment aficionado and entrepreneur with a passion for high-end, yet attainable style.

Are you a travel blogger who prides herself on finding amazing hole-in-the-wall places? If so, be a cultural detective or off-the-beaten-track enthusiast. See how powerful that sounds in comparison? By only labeling yourself as a travel influencer, you are taking power and excitement away from your uniqueness.

I think what it all boils down to is individuality. We live in a very individualistic culture, so why is it that everyone wants the same job title? Remember when you were little and the teacher would ask the class what everyone wanted to be when he or she grew up? As the teacher went around the room, you heard dreams with the passion and excitement only little kids can muster. You would hear ballerina, doctor, superhero, princess, you name it, so why is it now that everyone is striving for the same title? Why can’t we hold onto that passion and individuality?

If you are considering becoming an influencer and starting a blog or Youtube channel, please do not subscribe to the influencer mold. Be unique, play with words, and don’t allow the word influencer to define you. You are SO MUCH more than a “food influencer!”

How do YOU define having influence versus being an influencer? 

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