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5 (now six) Characteristics of Top Influencers [updated 2021]

Social Media Influencer

You know that feeling you get when you pick up the phone to call your cable or phone company?

You’d almost prefer to go to the dentist I bet!

It’s easy to get frustrated with those automated systems, especially the “voice recognition” ones that I find myself pressing lots of random numbers in the fruitless hope that I will inadvertently shut down the entire thing.

Alas, none of that works, but we’ve all tried anyway, haven’t we? If we could just reach through that phone line to a competent individual, we’d be much more likely to behave when we do find a person.

But what if we had the kind of influence necessary to change the situation?

The problem is that we are rarely in control when it comes to marketing messages hitting us from every angle.

We have no voice.

We are not being heard and no one is listening, except maybe some Google algorithm deciding what we want for us.

Historically, companies have rarely actually listened to their customers. Even in this age of data-driven marketing, it is still uncommon.

Sure, there are companies that like Pepsi that did the consumer taste testing thing, but that was then.


This lack of really listening, really paying attention, was one of the main drivers behind the #occupywallst movement several years ago and the driver of so much anger online lately.

Companies have always broadcast their message to us through the TV, radio, mail, magazines, and ads.

Basically, anywhere they could stick them, including our children’s clothes, our video games, movies, and even our phones.

Now they are broadcasting to us through social media and on our mobile devices without really understanding much beyond what their data tells them.  They just want what drives the most sales.

For instance, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Amazon have all launched a video-based live shopping experience very similar to what QVC has done.  It works at driving sales, which is why name brands use these tools, but it misses out on engaging with people.

Few Brands Understand Social Engagement

The real power in social media is that it gives everyone a voice, even if that voice is sometimes (or more than sometimes) wrong.

There is no single person behind social media.

It is group chaos at best.

But one voice can influence and sometimes redirect the whole conversation.

It’s kind of like a flock of birds.

One bird decides to change direction, and rapidly one or two follow, but then the entire flock may go along, all within a few milliseconds of each other.

The question on every corporate marketer and government leader’s mind today is, how do you control this flock that loves you one moment and is ready to tear down or cancel everything the next?

There is no answer to that question as long as people have free will, but we can strive to be influencers of the flock.

So what is a social influencer for good?


  1. They Are Trustworthy.  They are a trusted source of information, a real person, with original thoughts, and aren’t just retweeting stuff other people say.
  2. They Are a Respected Thought Leader.  An influencer is typically interested in just one main topic with lots of sub-topics from that main idea. They have a loyal following of readers and people they engage with.  They actually interact and react to the interests of their audience, even though they may not agree with them.
  3. Their Words Have Impact.  They can often impact other influencers and buyers in a given space because of their knowledge and passion for the topic.
  4. They Are Engaging. They regularly interact and engage with their followers.  Engaging in real-time is extremely important these days.
  5. They Go To Their Audience.  They use the same tools (usually Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Discord, Instagram) as the crowd.  It may not always be the sites you are used to though.  It may be private communities with tools like Slack.
  6. They Have a Growing Audience.  An influencer is constantly trying to grow reach.  There are tools like MobileMonkey for Instagram and really helpful tips on audience growth that you can use to reach more people.  Some influencers experience fast growth, others are slower, but their reach is constantly growing.

Are you an influencer in your space?

Actually, we are all an influencer, it just depends on how far your influence goes.

If you want to influence this generation or the next, if you want the flock to follow your lead, it is something earned with a lot of hard work.

There are rarely any shortcuts.

For business leaders, it means being honest and actually engaging with your teams and with your customers for the first time.

For you parents out there wanting to impact your digitally inclined kids, it means being a courageous (more than just a best buddy) role model your kids can look up to and emulate.

For bloggers, it means having a voice that doesn’t simply repeat what others are saying but challenges the status quo.

Bring evidence that you know what you are talking about.

Bring knowledge that only you have and share it.

Don’t worry, no one is going to steal your idea, but they may begin influencing their friends.

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John Paul Mains

John Paul Mains is the Chief Marketing Scientist at Click Laboratory. He loves all things digital, but especially SEO and analytics. If you're interested in learning more, his LinkedIn profile is

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