Since Elmo Roper first proposed this idea that 10% of the population consisted of opinion leaders—people that can influence the other 90%—their has been a marketing race to recruit these influencers to have a favorable view of your brand.
Over time, as Roper’s ideas have spread, and expanded again with Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, we now look to be told what to do next.
When we decide what kind of shoes to buy, we ask beforehand what is my tribe wearing.
When we look for places to eat, we look somewhere that has familiar faces.
When we are trying to decide who to vote for, we look to see who reflects our values.
Because people like us do stuff like this. We look for the signals, that tell us where to go, where to eat, what to wear, who to vote for, what to do. The tribe does what the influencers tell them to do.
So, the race for brands to identify these influencers and recruit them is on. What’s changed since Roper’s ideas in the 1940’s is the fact that now, people/consumers are actively trying to game the system to become an influencer.
The worst example of this in recent history is the Fyre Festival. One of the reasons the Fyre Festival was such a disaster was how Billy McFarland and Ja Rule convinced Instagram influencers to break their trust they had with their own tribe. Influencers wanted to be seen at the place to be first.
It is worth noting that the number of gatekeepers has grown substantially with the invention of social media. It is no longer just Opera. If someone like Kendall Jenner or one of the top 100 IG models picks your brand (like she did with Fyre), your brand wins.
But what is the price you pay to be picked? Kendall Jenner received $250,000 for one Instagram promotional post. Just one.
Even though there are more gate keepers and there is more opportunity to become one, that island is getting full. If you were going to start a blog or create an app or start a podcast that was going to make millions, it’s too late. It’s too crowded now.
So then, the question is why should we try? Where do we go? Who do we follow?
If you going to market to the masses, then it is a race to the bottom. A race you can’t win. The door, however is wide open for you to change not everyone, but someone. That someone, maybe a 100 people, that would pay a $1,000 for your product or service. You can work to become an influencer and assemble a small cadre of people like you to try to get them to places they want to go.
It scary to initiate. This is much more difficult that just a couple of clicks. It’s worth it, if you can stick it out.