CEO Real Talk: By Gordon Fowler

“Influencer marketing” is the new “big data.”

Every year there’s another huge trend that takes something old and obvious from business and makes it sound like a new idea. Lately, the new “it” phrase is “influencer marketing.” You can’t read a single business blog these days without seeing at least one post telling you how to become an “influencer” or why you need to target “influencers” if you want to be successful. (Yes, I see the irony.)

There’s nothing new about the importance of influence to business success. However, the introduction of social media has created a new genre of “influencers,” who will all tell you how essential it is for you to pay them for reaching their followers, especially if you want to be cool with the kids.

And that’s where the BS begins to pile up.

Big Numbers Do Not Equal Influence

Now, I’m not saying influence doesn’t matter. It really, really does. What I’m saying is how someone is influential matters more.

The business of “influence” has become a little too focused on follower counts, impressions, and clicks, and less on making some kind of impact. I mean, how cool does it sound to have 100,000 followers? So cool. But, the question I always follow it up with is, “What are you going to do next?”

If the entire goal (or proof) for your status as an influencer is numbers, what is the point? Do all those followers care about one thing? How are they similar? What opportunity for action do they create?

If you’ve built a following based on mutual-follows or, worse, purchased followers to inflate your count, quite honestly you have nothing to bring to the business, or marketing strategy, table. However, if you have approached your efforts with a goal in mind (outside of follower numbers), that’s when you become interesting.

So, don’t worry so much about your follower numbers, focus on who your followers include.