We’ve all seen them on Instagram…
Girls whose only apparent talent is looking good in a bikini.
Standing in front of a perfect Mediterranean beach, ass sticking out towards the camera – perhaps to emphasize the vapid inspirational quote.
“If you want to, you can!”
We click on their profile… Who is this mysterious person?
Sonia. 24. Art student and influencer.
And if the female posterior isn’t your thing, there are also guys playing the influencer game.
Guys with aristocratic noses, who gaze out windows, thoughtfully stroking curated stubble – all in order to show off the $3000 watch that peeks out of the sleeve of their tailored suit.
Blake. Fashionista. Fitspo and Influencer.
Who are these people, and how do they manage to get such massive followings? How, exactly, does one become an influencer?
And all with no apparent skills or abilities?
These are the questions that keep me up at night…
Is Paris Hilton controlling your mind?
Of course, this influencer business is nothing new.
A decade ago, I was shocked to learn that Paris Hilton earned 5 figures a night just for showing up at certain clubs…
Because business would explode if Paris had been seen partying there.
I don’t personally go to clubs, or care much what Paris Hilton does…
But it’s interesting.
In my short millennial life, as far as I can tell, Paris Hilton was the first big example of somebody who’s famous just because she’s famous.
Be rich, do nothing, go to parties, and millions of soulless consumer drones will envy you.
They’ll want to hang out in the general area of your table at a nightclub. They’ll drop $80 on your brand of perfume…
Because your snotty rich aura around a product is all they need to buy it.
The difference between then and now is that way back in the past decade, if you wanted to become an influencer you had to attract the attention of a TV network – you had to sit in meetings and sign contracts and make promises and deal with producers and god knows what else…
All before you got to parade your perfect posterior or chiseled features in front of millions.
Now “anyone” can do it on Instagram – with the help of the right hashtags and a few bots to send out automatic comments.
Warning: you might be under the influence
Perhaps I’m not the right person to be talking about celebrity culture.
When my friends mention anything that’s been happening in Miley Cyrus’ life, I’m usually puzzled as to how they’ve found out, or why they’d choose to waste mental space on such data.
(I’ll watch her swing around on a giant phallic symbol any time… But that’s just me.)
I’m that weird guy who finds out about pop culture 5 to 10 years after the fact, usually through Wikipedia.
However, there are definitely people who influence me.
People who mention a book on their podcast and 4 seconds later I’m buying it on Amazon…
And I guess if there were a nightclub in Madrid where Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger were known to kick it, gangsta style, I’d stand in line.
On the other hand, I’m certainly not running out to buy a Coogi sweater just because Biggie mentions them as a status symbol. And I’m not looking for Jay-Z’s favorite brand of sneakers when I’m out shopping – possibly because they’d cost 7 times my budget.
Although I did once spend an afternoon drinking Remy Martin at the Amsterdam Hilton, in a combined fit of Biggie / Jay Z / John Lennon geekiness.
It was raining like a motherfucker, and drinking Remy at the Hilton seemed like a classy way to stay dry.
And as the saying goes, “When the Remy’s in the system, ain’t no tellin…”
But that’s another story.
How to become an influencer in 6 easy steps
And according to Cialdini, one of the 6 main forms of influence is social proof.
In other words, if a lot of other people are doing something, it must be a good idea.
Therefore, if you have 25k (or 2.5m) subscribers on Instagram, you must be “somebody”. Or at least more somebody than us lesser mortals who count our followers in the hundreds.
These are what the serious social scientists call heuristics.
Rather than deciding if something is a good idea or not on its own merits, we follow the crowd, we do what someone in authority tells us to do, or we just try to stay consistent with what we’ve said and done in the past.
This saves our brain’s valuable processing power for more important things, like watching Miley Cyrus videos and thinking of excuses not to work out.
In other words, people are basically dumb, and we respond to certain stimuli in an automatic, subconscious way, by pulling out our wallets.
That hot girl’s leaning on the hood of a new Acura?
Then I must immediately purchase an Acura! It’s clearly a vehicle of the highest quality. Impeccable Japanese design and workmanship.
That one’s called the halo effect, which Cialdini categorizes under “liking”.
If attractive people do something, it’s a doubly good idea. They’re obviously genetically superior to us commoners, therefore their decisions are probably better.
And seeing Paris Hilton at the club?
That’s authority, another one of Cialdini’s big six– in the mind of club kids, Paris is an authority on partying.
And you won’t believe what happened next…
Has Mr Chorizo become an influencer?
After writing the preceding paragraphs, I let this article sit for about a month…
Like so much else I do, I didn’t know what the hell was the point. And the first draft was so bad it was bringing tears to my eyes.
In the weeks that followed, I started posting lots of photos of places I went on my Instagram and on Facebook.
I got on focalmark.com for a list of annoying hashtags to use…
And I was shocked at the results – I was getting new likes, new followers.
It took me a few weeks to realize that it was all bots. If someone comments “awesome post” on my #dailydogpic in the quarter second after I’ve published it, guess what…
They’re a bot, not a human.
I was about to give up at the meaninglessness of all this bot-pleasing when I was shocked again…
Because that’s when people I know started asking me serious questions about the places I had been posting about.
About Keyaan’s, or L’Artisan, for example. Should I take my wife there for our tenth anniversary? Is it so expensive that only pro bloggers can afford it?
Things like that.
And then they’d say… “Well, you’re an influencer. I saw it on your Instagram, so I figured I’d go.”
I guess I am an influencer, in my own small time way.
And really, we all are – or we all could be.
The only way online influencers get into our heads is by showing up over and over again – in that sense, they’re like friends.
Post three times a day, and people will see you. They’ll think they know you. They’ll value your opinion.
And when you say Remy…
They’ll order it the next time they’re in da club.
Or at the Amsterdam Hilton.
P.S. I’m just gonna be that ginger guy who manages to work a lyric from the Notorios B.I.G. into every post from here on out. ‘Cause who else is gonna name-check Biggie and Cialdini in the same post? Nobody, that’s who… #yallcantflossonmylevel
P.P.S. What do you think about influencers? Would you like to become an influencer like me? Or just bask in my reflected glory? Either way, hit me up in the comments…
P.P.P.S. Speaking of losers who like attention, check out my new article about English teachers in Spain. It’s, uh, a bit controversial.