What Makes An “Authority” or “Influencer”?
People follow an insane amount of other people these days, most they’ve never met in person. They accept what these strangers say almost without question. What these people recommend and state as bald fact is swallowed whole.
These are the “influencers” that marketing types constantly seek out in order to have a “popular” or “viral” hit on their hands. Get one of these guys to recommend your product and the sales take off.
Politicians surround themselves with these types in order to get elected. They are called “celebrities”. Scientists contact these types in order to get funding for their research.
The writer is told to go off and get a “platform”, and only then come back with their book proposal. What they mean by a platform is a set of followers who accept your message routinely and will buy something if you recommend it.
How do these influencers get such followings?
They routinely give useful data, stuff that helps people. In marketing-speak, it’s data that is one of three classes: entertaining, educational, or inspirational (enlightening.)
Why are these three classes sought after?
People want to have more feelings in their lives.
Entertainment can give you a wide variety of stimulation that can bring about all manner of emotional states and feelings. Learning something new is always a feel-good scene, if you’re successful (even if it’s how to avoid disaster.) Being inspired is a short cut to feeling hope in your life again, especially as our culture seems to be filled with hope-destroying news and marketing these days. Life itself can hand you bitter disappointments routinely – unless you make it a habit to find what is good around you.
People become authorities by helping you feel good about yourself, or at least giving you a welcome distraction and emotional release.
And this is why actors and actresses are able to hire themselves out as product pitch-persons. People liked their performances as they make them feel better, so marketers find that such followers will also buy something if a celebrity comes out and recommends a brand (like that of a certain politician.) That celebrity could be clueless about the politician’s actual intentions or voting record. Celebrities are people and themselves could simply be following some other follower – and getting paid for it.
When authorities routinely give you material that’s useful, then you start tuning into what they say as a habit.
The warning is not to follow someone blindly. Most of our fast food and our entertainment is built on this addictive “instant gratification.” Fast food is designed to be filling and is laced with ingredients that makes your glands secrete just like when you feel good. Sugar, fried foods, salt – eating these things all give you a “zing!” Entertainment is designed with visuals and music that gets your heart-beat moving faster. And a good story will resonate in your body itself, stimulating feelings as you read (see Chris Vogler’s Writer’s Journey for a chapter on how this works.)
Look over your own influencers. Check out what you are eating – is it addictive? Look at what you really like to read or watch – is it filled with emotional roller-coaster rides and cliff-hanging suspense? Study the people who write stuff you always open and read – are they routinely giving you valuable data you can use to become more efficient or prosperous?
Real authorities constantly add value to your life.
Fake authorities don’t.
If you study what data-sources you have in your life, you’ll also find people you quit listening to. Study these over as well and you’ll see the patterns show up about how they gave you bad data in the past.
More often than not, you’ll find a lot of following-followers. They are following those who they think are “thought leaders” or “influencers.” They are wannabe authorities and are just parroting what others say and do. They add no real value.
Another type you’ll find is short-cutters. People who are constantly giving you data so you can “get rich quick” or some other “fast” method that only works for a very short time.
Classic texts are classic because they tell you the natural laws at work. They are also entertaining, educational, and inspirational. Often all at the same time. They may mention other authors, but they are unique in their approach, not copycat. Because of this, you can read and re-read these books and even recorded music or videos, and get more out of what they tell you every time. Every single time.
Real leaders have a consistency about them which doesn’t change whether people follow them or not. It’s called integrity. This makes them easy to follow, but harder to emulate.
Those are the real authorities.
Most of our popular culture is like a swarm of jelly fish. They do move, but in groups, and often with the tides that surround them. Cattle move somewhat like this as well. They like to stay in herds for various reasons. Humankind is yet another herd animal.
Wannabe authorities are trying to take advantage of this. Unfortunately, they are short-cutters and are really just following-followers. They try to see where the crowd is heading and then get in front of it as an early adopter, so they look like a leader.
You can find them as they are constantly shifting their approach and what they are pushing. They take every short cut imaginable to get out in front fastest.
I keep a few of these appearing in my inbox just so I can see by their email headings where they think their mob is going next (the next “big” thing). This tells me where not to go, as this is a pure example of conventional wisdom. (This is where I love Gmail because it separates the chaff from the wheat for me. If I keep getting inane offers from someone instead of real value, they go into “promotion” category, where I can bulk select and delete without opening.)
There is a short-cut technique that the bulk of marketers seem to use these days, based on psycho-babble. These guys say and repeat the idea that people are motivated by either “fear” or “greed.” And there is just enough truth in that so they can keep making money off their sales pitches. But the main desires and their derivatives are much broader than that. When you see this technique (and it seems that the “news” sites and networks are 95% devoted to pitches like these – Fox News and Drudge are no better than MSNBC, CNN, or Huffington Post) then you know there isn’t all that much value in these areas.
It’s time to look through your authorities with a keen eye for these factors: short-cutting, following-followers, and real value-adders. Quit listening to the first two and concentrate on the last one for awhile. Then see if you don’t start feeling better about life.
There is an observation that the terrorist organizations around us are existing mostly because of the “news” they get. Internally, they are self-destructive. Pushing fear all the time tends to create more fear.
Frankly, our news organizations are using a mild form of terrorism themselves. The only way you’ll reform them is to quit watching and listening.
Subscribe only to sites which add value to your life.
Find real authorities and follow those.
And you’ll feel better routinely.