The Caution of Social Media Influencers

On Twitter I have 7000+ followers (at the time of writing) and I’m here to let you know that it really doesn’t matter as much as people think it matters.

From what I am aware of, reasons people follow me tend to fall into something of the following:

  • I’m on a website/article list of recommended people to follow
  • Someone recommended me as someone to follow
  • I blog and talk about L&D and am therefore seen as a commentator in this space
  • People came across my profile and because I’m in the same profession/industry as them think we have things in common
  • We met at an event of some sort and by virtue I am being followed
  • Something else I can’t think of for now
  • I’m not seeking to genuinely find out, just my own musings

Now with a follower number that large I could easily fall into the trap of the following thinking.

  2. I have influence over what people think and I can use that in interesting and manipulative ways
  3. I can sell my reach to potential vendors who want access to those kinds of followers
  4. I am successful at Social Media and can advise others on how to grow their numbers
  5. Others want to hear from me so I must share engaging and provocative content for them to read / consume / share

And over the years I’ve tried variants of stuff to test any and all of the previous points. So here are some truths I’ve learned after repeated experiments.

Numbers of Followers do not equal Sales

I have held various open workshops and if any of the above points were patently true, I should have sold out on every one and would currently be making good money from continued endeavours like this.

I have been able to run these open workshops, and nearly every time with a handful of people, and not nearly as financially viable as I wanted them to be.

Numbers of Followers do not equal High Numbers of Likes

I’m just not that kind of content producer who can do that stuff where a tweet or blog is so well written or a podcast so fascinating that it attracts 100s or 1000s of likes / comments / reads / retweets.

With 7000+ followers there is a line of logic that I could be achieving that high level of engagement and interaction, but my followers aren’t doing that. To my mind this is definitely a case of what I’m doing and not nearly anything about my followers or their intentions.

FYI my blog receives probably 80 views for every published piece, average about 50 views a day anyway. My podcast after 33 episodes is about 3000 downloads. My tweets may get a handful of likes and maybe some commentary.

If the logic of 7000+ followers meant anything it should mean I receive multiples on each of those figures every single time. It’s just not happening like that.

Numbers of Followers does not equal Happy Sukh

I really don’t derive any level of happiness or joy from knowing I have a high number of followers. It makes no difference to how I live my life, how I use Twitter or Social Media in general, and I am not affected (fortunately) in any negative way by Twitter.

There are myriad other ways I seek out meaning and things that bring me joy. Some of that happens on Twitter and Social Media in general, but it generally happens off digital and that mix is right for me.

I’m no more of an Influencer than anyone else

The thing about Social Media in general is that it is very transitory and highly forgetful and very fickle. One off comment one day can put people off you altogether. Days or weeks of no content and most people won’t bat an eyelid or remember if you have or notice or even care.

Just to be clear I’ve never manipulated anyone on Social Media

I’m not a dick. I have morals and ethics. I want others to be well and live good lives. I spend a lot of time and effort thinking how I and others can do that more for the benefit of everyone and of individuals. I have never, and will not ever, use Social Media for manipulative purposes.

So what, Sukh?

Well, as with a lot of reflections like this, people know there are good principles to uphold, and those things should be more important or have better meaning than the fickle and temporary nature of Social Media.

  • Be kind to others, we never know what someone else is going through or why they’re saying critical or negative or abusive things
  • If you don’t want to, are feeling threatened by, or are being abused by someone, report them, block them, and if needed file a police report
  • Joy and good news stories help provide hope and connection with others
  • Develop more empathy and the language of enquiry and empathy
  • Build others up. If they don’t want that, let them be and focus your energies elsewhere.
  • Have meaningful interactions.
  • Who you are today isn’t who you were yesterday and isn’t who you are tomorrow. We all move and adapt all the time.
  • If Social Media content is making you angry or experience things that are difficult to understand, talk to someone you trust. Explore your thinking. Understand yourself better.
  • Have good things happening in your non-digital life that you can look forward to and that help you feel good. Make it regular. Keep the routine.

Let me know what you think about the post. What else have you learned about supposed Influencers that you want to share here?

Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “The Caution of Social Media Influencers”

  1. Thank you for this Sukh.

    I think all of this is how I feel, can be and have been. I’m a LOT less active on social media. Stung by the vitriol I saw around 2016’s political shenanigans and some connections distancing themselves from me/my work; I withdrew. Into long-form posting on Medium. More to exercise my thinking and exorcise my demons. I’ve noticed others similarly not as present, and some I’ve not noticed because I’ve muted my timeline a lot.

    Social Media’s bubble hasn’t burst, but I no longer sing its praises like I did. It’s become an awful place at times. You had to work super hard on that post to do with ‘white privilege’ recently I noticed. I’m not one to get into such conversations online, so bravo you for doing so with dignity. No, all that’s for other people more ‘keyboard warrior’ and snarky than I’ll ever want to be. So I mute, unfollow, block, report as much as I follow, like and share these days. Sad, but how it’s become.

    And influence is not our call to make so I’m glad you’ve described how you have: what other people see it as. I see it as nice that people feel you post good enough stuff to be worthy of a follow. Unfollow at some point? I won’t lose sleep; as I probably turned out to be not as interesting or useful as some might have thought.

    Am I in an echo chamber? Yes. I’m in a place where as much as I can direct it, it’s about interesting, thoughtful and helpful people and their posts. Is that stunting my broad perspective of the world? Maybe. It’s certainly removing tension, anger, dismay and frustration somewhat.

    The only influence I want is what I’ve curated as something that is still a pretty diverse and useful feed. If, in the process of my use of social media I influence others for something positive, then great. I set out to be useful, fair and generous and hope I mostly achieve that.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post and have you noticed how few people now leave comments on blog posts? That’s where debate used to happen.

    Anyway, stay strong and be well fella.

    1. Hey PT,

      Thanks for commenting here – and in long form, too!

      Good to hear your reflections here.

      The conversation I had last week with that gentleman was a test, I tell you.

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