This post was written by one of our contributors; mentor, author, speaker, and founder Fab Giovanetti
I tend to think of myself as a slightly dramatic person – in the best way possible, I’d like to add. I like to say that I live my life through the lens of a movie with an incredible soundtrack – therefore, the cue for the beginning of this article would be ominous music and a big, fat title stating: Who are influencers anyway?
“(Marketing), a person or group that has the ability to influence the behaviour or opinion of others: the influencer is the individual whose effect on the purchase decision is in some way significant or authoritative” (Cambridge English Dictionary, 2018)
In total honesty, I prefer this definition from the ROHWI website: “An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience. An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with. The size of the following depends on the size of the niche.” (ROHWI, 2019)
Who are the influencers, really?
In case you do not know who I am, or why I LOVE talking about influencers, let me share what I do for a living. I am the founder of a few companies, including the Health Bloggers Community – a community that is now 6 years old.
Due to my work and the brands I created, I am fortunate enough to know quite a few very influential people in my line of work – and I could even stretch to call myself one.
I work with people who actually want to grow their influence to make a positive change. And yet, some of us, instead of realising the incredible impact we may have on 100 people with just one picture, are still feeling discouraged when the number of the people who we influence is not a million or two.
When I started my quest, I set to bring perceptive to what, in my personal opinion, being an influencer is – and what, after researching and cross-referencing habits and beliefs of over 1,500 “influencers” for my first book, Make an Impact, makes one an influencer.
I believe most people who want to become a professional in my industry – health and wellness – have a big responsibility of influencing others. It’s not just about consumer choices, or the perfect face mask. It’s about making a positive impact, looking to inspire a change in people’s behaviours and mindset.
The reason why influencers have such an incredible power of persuasion is mostly due to the way they can catch our attention. Catching attention is vital because we are impatient, and tend to lose interest quickly. Don’t give me that look. Statistics showed that our attentions lasted 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013 (just one second below that of a goldfish, lucky us). (Statistic Brain Institute, 2013, Attention Span Research)
Living in the information age, there are so many things vying for our attention, such as Instagram notifications, messages and group chats – and an endless, pouring stream of GIFs (which could as well be my fault for the most part).
That combined with the idea of influencers tapping into social proof explains WHY we tend to relate so much to influencers – just like our lovely Hazel.
Let me explain what social proof is: it’s the psychological phenomenon referring to how people rely on the input and actions of trusted peers to make decisions about what is right and wrong (Robert Cialdini, Influence 1984)
It is a great marketing tool, and you can easily find examples in a lot of websites: recipe websites (as well as Pinterest nowadays) encourage people to post photos of their finished meals. Fitness programs and Instagram account encourage before and after photos so people can show others how much better they look.
So, now that we know WHO they are and HOW they get our interest, the question is “should you trust them?”
People can influence for many reasons, by tapping into a variety of emotions and feelings: curiosity, jealousy, envy – which ties in with comparison, a well-known process that is also a reason that makes influencers someone others aspire to be.
Influence has been and can be applied to any problem or idea. Where positive influence is truly making a difference is by getting ideas spread, helping people be, feel, and perform better as well as being overall happier.
To use a technical term, I do believe positive influence is at the base of what studies call “ethical leadership” – through which, a leader is actually affecting the conduct of its tribe providing a series of positive of social norms, which typically involve being honest, caring, and trustworthy.
I also believe that what has been missing – and it’s now shaping up – is a set of standards and regulations for the whole industry. The main challenges in wellness by influencers are poor quality information, irresponsible communications and inappropriate affiliations.
The current lack of industry-specific legislation has meant that the general audience has been playing a part in holding wellness brands and influencers accountable. Associations like the register of health and wellness influencers (ROHWI) are trying to actively change that, by creating standards people can adhere and champion.
While there is an infinite number of ways in which credible content can be curated, the training and framework to which everyone can adhere, ultimately raising existing industry standards and ensuring that the fundamental aim of all health and wellness information is achieved.
In total honesty even regulating bodies like ROHWI are not enough – what we truly need is the work and cooperation of all parties:
- Bodies that can provide regulations
- An educated audience that understands the role of influencers
- Influencers willing to learn and follow training and guidelines
Are we ready to take this challenge? I believe the time has come for the industry to grow in order to make a bigger, positive impact in the health & wellbeing of the population.F