Why Influencers Are Often Wrong

November 7, 2014 Social Influence 1 comment

Well behaved women rarely make history -(1)

Do you know that the views and opinions shared by social influencers aren’t always right? In fact, there is a good chance that they may be wrong.

Now wait a minute.

I am not saying that these luminaries aren’t credible or respectable. In fact, they often have them by the truckloads.

Thought leaders, celebrities, and respected practitioners of their field, social influencers have worked hard to earn their stripes in what ever domain they choose to master.

This could be in practically any discipline that they favour – from acting, singing and dancing to food, fashion, travel, photography, technology, management and marketing.

However, the relentless battle for attention may sometimes turn black and white in the digital world to 50 shades of grey.

Chances are that the stuff which gets shared the most online often isn’t the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Rather, it is usually seasoned and spiced with all kinds of attention grabbing condiments.

Here are eight reasons why social influencers are often wrong.

1) Gored by Gamification

We are all game players in the digital age. In fact, even a professional social network like LinkedIn itself is a “gaming” platform.

There we play this game called “work” and try to find the best opportunities for ourselves, while constantly polishing and preening our profiles and achievements.

In the social media world, traditional yardsticks of influence have shifted. We are now measured on “leaderboards” which calculate our influence based on indicators like the number of friends and followers we have, the engagement we have elicited per post, or the number of profile views.

Every breath we take and every move we make (apologies to the Police) now becomes a pre-meditated and calculated action.

2) Unholy Halo Effects

Like it or loathe it, gaining some degree of celebrity status does get into your head. Even if it is just a tiny smidgen (speaking from personal experience).

The moment you feel that you have an audience, you are more likely to want to speak out on something. This occurs even if you know absolutely nuts about the topic – from politics to religion to anthropology to psychology to even marketing (yes I have been wrong on more than a few occasions myself).

In similar fashion, the halo effect may sometimes twist people’s opinions in an unnatural way. Call it hero-worship, gushing, or groupie behaviour, we are far more likely to treasure any opinion shared by our idol as something worthy of our utmost attention, even when it is anything but so.

3) Hijacked by Newsjacking

Have you noticed that when a particular issue trends, almost everybody wants to jump on board the bandwagon?

Any social influencer worth his or her salt knows that there are benefits to riding on these momentary peaks of seasonal interest. After all, you don’t often get opportunities to latch onto a hot news topic to showcase your purported brilliance.

When somebody searches on Google or clicks on a #trendinghashtag? Boom! You’re there!

Even if your knowledge of the subject matter is equivalent to a small little white mouse.

4) Victims of Virality

Yes, buzz and virality is still the keyword after all these years. If you can’t get your content to travel and spread, it just isn’t going to make the same impact.

And guess which kind of content is more likely to generate waves in your network? Nope, it isn’t going to be your ordinary nightly news or another regular day in Pleasantville.

Spoilt by the likes of Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Viral Nova and the likes (see this link for a list of the top 15), we are unlikely to click on any link – much less comment on it or share it – unless it has that “OMG! What in the world is that?” factor.

Which brings me to my next point.

5) Link Baiting Headline Hell

I know I know. Facebook is supposed to “kill” those accounts accused of spinning those awful link baiting news. Unfortunately, there are still various ways around it and it is still happening each and every hour on the social webs.

In such a social content landscape, the only way to generate any kind of traffic and attention is to put a great spin into your headline. I guess this is why many “listicles” (like this one) still remain so popular despite the purported uproar against such atrocious literary trash.

6) Compelled to be Contrarians

These days, nobody loves a goody two shoes. However, everybody loves a rebel – with or without a cause.

On the social web, having an authentically anti-authoritarian point of view rocks. The badder you are perceived to be, the greater your credibility with your fans and followers.

I guess this is the unfortunate reason why social media has spawned off so many controversy-eliciting “news” portals.

Having an alternative point of view may also make you more likely to be quoted by the media. I mean, who really reads those watered down sugar-coated CEO quotes in press releases?

7) Bad News > Good News

In the newsroom, a bad news day is a good news day. Studies have shown that negative news like major disasters, wars and viral outbreaks sell a lot more papers than the usual boring stuff.

In the same vein, generating “bad news” on your social channels may win you temporal spikes of virality, buzz and shares. Doing so taps on that innate psychological trigger known as the “forbidden fruit” symptom. Somehow or other, our minds are programmed to react more strongly to negative news than to positive news.

Don’t believe me? Just ask yourself which are the most memorable and impactful articles that you have read.

8) Controversy Sells

Lastly, controversial content always travels a lot faster than safe and sanitised one. This phenomenon is magnified a hundredfold on the social web, where overflowing newsfeeds and in-boxes necessitates us to apply a natural filter on what we choose to consume.

Given the lack of time in an overtly multi-tasked world, we tend to go for the low hanging fruits. Celebrity gossip, political shenanigans, outrageous acts against humanity, and their ilk.

Unfortunately, to many of us, vice is nice. At least when its safely packaged as a piece of content consumed within the security and privacy of our screens.

Do you agree with my views on why social influencers are often wrong? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

PS – the quote in the image above isn’t actually from Marilyn Monroe as commonly believed. Instead, it came from a Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard Professor named Laurel Thatcher Ulrich as part of her academic paper.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.

One Comment

  1. We love clicking on bait links 🙂 I even do that every day. This is how I managed to create one viral type website that went from 0 to 250k visitors in just 3 months. I only promoted the website on Facebook, but people loved the posts.

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