Maybe it’s the filter bubbles that I operate within on social media, but it strikes me that there’s a growing feeling that ‘the emperor has no clothes’ when it comes to ‘influencer’ marketing. From the Pepsi clusterfuck to brilliant articles like this and this, it feels like the bubble is about to pop.
That’s unfortunate, because the theory behind this approach is pretty sound. In a time when consumer cynicism/skepticism is incredibly high and attention is hard to come by. Using a credible, independent, trusted third party to verify your brand should be a positive step.
But, as with many other new trends with a shred of actual substance behind them, brands and influencers have combined to extract all the authenticity and credibility out of the market.
Without wanting to add to the chorus of naysayers, I’d like to propose a new law/heuristic/rule of thumb that we need to start applying to influencer marketing (and indeed other areas of marketing and business where hubris and bullshit reigns.)
It’s called ‘the paradox of self deceleration‘. (Catchy eh? Someone else can surely come up with a better title!)
It goes like this:
If you call yourself an ‘influencer’, ‘thought leader’ or an ‘entrepreneur’ on the internet, it’s very likely that you’re not one.
Self praise is no praise. Amongst all the issues with influencer marketing, one is the mislabelling of influencers by themselves. Having an Instagram account with a few million followers doesn’t make you an influencer, no matter how many times you use that hashtag. The irony is that really influential people don’t need to label themselves. They just are influential.
Similarly, just having a blog doesn’t make you a thought leader, or having a business idea doesn’t make you an entrepreneur. These are things that because of what you do, just declaring it yourself doesn’t make it a reality.
An old boss of mind Gary Brown wrote a brilliantly contrarian piece a few years ago about the cult of entrepreneurship and the bullshit that surrounds Irish startupland and made some brilliant points:
“The best way to be an entrepreneur is to go and start a business, call it a business, create a few jobs, and let someone else call you that. Self-proclaimed titles are very dangerous.”
It all reminds me a bit of the clip from The Office when Michael DECLARES BANKRUPTCY and expects it to actually mean something!
It strikes me that far too often people are happy enough to label themselves something but not put in the hard work to actually back the label up with credibility.
It doesn’t work like that.
Don’t claim you are, show you are. Because one thing’s for sure, if there’s no substance behind a claim, eventually, you’ll be found out.