Under the Influence

It occurred to me the other day after hearing that someone I knew was an “influencer” that I’d never been influenced. At least not that I know of. So why haven’t I been influenced and how do you become an influencer in the first place?

Is the fact that I don’t know anything about influencers make me less susceptible to influence? Or have I been influenced without knowing it?

I decided to do the obvious thing. I Googled “How do I become an influencer?” since I figured I’d rather influence than be influenced.

Not surprisingly, there were about 81.7 million results. There’s a lot of influence out there. (I’d call it an influencea epidemic but that’s probably in bad taste.)

Can you guess what else there is out there? That’s right — all sorts of services that you can spend money on for advice or help with influencing. You can hire Hashtagforlikes, for example, to help you find the right Instagram hashtags to reach your “target audience organically.” Audiences hate it when you use artificial targeting.

There are also books for purchase, courses and web construction for purchase, and agents who, for a price, say they’ll hook you up with sponsors. We’re being influenced to influence.

The basic advice for would-be influencers is to gather up lots of followers and then get paid by companies to feature their products or services. But you have to be subtle about it — you lose your credibility if you do too much shilling because someone might think you’re being paid — which you are.

At this point in my research, I’m becoming a little disturbed. It turns out that influencers are doing what they’re doing for money! How am I supposed to trust their advice when I know they’re being paid for it?

The answer is, you can’t. There are ways, however, to determine whether someone giving you advice on the internet really means it.

The Influence-Industrial Complex tells us that to be successful you need at least thousands of “micro-influencers,” and, at best, millions of followers. So, obviously the most trustworthy people on the internet have practically no followers at all. Try to follow accounts that no one else follows. Odds are you won’t be influenced.

I should note here, by the way, that this makes me even more reliable that you thought. Hardly anyone knows that I’m on Twitter.

Also beware of anyone using the term “branding” if they have nothing to do with cattle ranching.

The American Bar Association, for example, is safe to follow on Instagram. It has less than 10,000 followers (seemingly the minimum amount for advertisers) and the latest photo when I looked at it last week was this one.

I don’t think I was influenced, but I was thinking about getting one of those hats.

Searching “lawyer” on Instagram is a very different experience — you can feel the desperate attempts at influencing. There were 2,619,712 posts when I checked. Why would anyone want to get lost in this crowd?

The top post had only 445 likes. There seemed to be no obvious reason for those likes. A large family, perhaps?

Clearly, these are all lawyers who had been influenced to become influencers and had no influence. You’d think they might know better.

So I tried checking a few major law firms. Baker McKenzie had 218 followers. BakerHostetler had 307 followers. Latham & Watkins had 733 followers. Norton Rose Fulbright had 3,682 followers (which closely matches their number of lawyers), Hogan Lovells had 1,015 followers. Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher had 592 and included this photo.

Ah, the irony.

Now we know that law firms are not paid influencers.

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