The emergence of influencers: the limits of a new strategic paradigm
The emergence of internet, and in particular of the web 2.0, shook the traditional media who became threatened in their control of the information and in their contribution to creating/shaping public opinion. New sources of information appeared, considerably changing the conditions of practicing journalism and the broadcasting of news. In parallel, traditional opinion leaders were replaced or challenged by the “influencers”, anonymous people able to contribute in creating public opinion on a subject. When an opinion leader is giving credibility, and therefore gains convincing power, it is trough his professional or university credentials, his career or published literature, his affiliation to a political, spiritual, intellectual organization. The influencer however, is above all an anonymous person who will build his influence by taking a stand on internet. Starting from scratch, as all web users do, the influencer will progressively emerge thanks to the recognition of his peers.
These new influencers work on a different perimeter of smaller, more targeted, and identified communities. An extra strength is provided to them: it is no longer an institution that speaks, but a man or a woman. The “I” of the individual speaks instead of the impersonal “we” of the company or the institution or the “I” of the expert. A few popular anonymous were progressively picked up by the advertisers, companies and institutions as potential relays of their message: at first as complementary tools to the traditional means and methods, then progressively as central elements of their strategies.
The influencer progressively replaced the opinion leader. Effect of trends or real change in the mechanism of influencing, the term is used today to also designate people who’s field of expression is outside of internet. But beyond the simple replacement of the term “opinion leader”, he would rather be the reflection of the change in the various stakes the media encounters and of the redistribution of the power to influence.
Today, the influencer born on the internet is a little bit less popular. He is no longer perceived as the miracle solution to all communication problems. One man cannot change public opinion: his influence grounds are restricted and the few internet gurus only reach a little number of people. The web users, on their side, have changed, have toughened. They are harder to convince. However, the term, largely adopted outside of internet, is the sign that the paradigm has moved. From now on, strategies must take into consideration not only the power of the individual, but also the power of the community. It must rely on influencers, who will talk to a specific public, without leaving to the side opinion leaders, who will reach a larger number, and by mixing more than ever on and offline tools.