To say that we live in the Age of the Influencer is an understatement. Sociologists, economists and experts in human behaviour refer to human history in periods of time, called ages. Human history is documented by stages, such as the Age of Discovery (from the 1400s to 1700s), the Industrial Age (roughly from 1750 to 1850) and the Information Age (from the 1970s to present).
With the advent of the internet and globalisation, and the subsequent arrival of social media, we have found ourselves in what social media marketers call the Age of the Influencer. Through rapid means of interconnectivity, the world has become a small place.
The Social Media Generation
Social media in its various forms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Instagram) has provided humanity with the ability to express themselves and their ideas. Just to show how crazy the statistics are; Every second 8882 tweets are sent, 976 photos are uploaded on Instagram, 83,057 YouTube videos are viewed. Of course, with millions working from home and students not attending classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the figures are growing every day.
It is staggering to think of the content that individuals, companies, schools, businesses, politicians, religions, entertainers create via social media to sell their ideas, political views, products and beliefs.
Consequently, social media has created an environment in which people want to be heard and to be heard must claim to be an expert—the authority on any given topic. These so‑called experts confuse opinion and fact, but want others to learn from them and see them as an authority. The result has been a mix of useful and harmful ideas—and an increasing difficulty to differentiate these—flying around in cyberspace. The pursuit and desire to change the way people see and act has given rise to what is referred to as the ‘influencer’.
We all have a desire to belong and fit in, so it is unsurprising that as we make decisions about what brand of a t-shirt to buy or what style of shoes are trending, we will consult people that we believe to be an authority on the topic, from friends to celebrities or mummy-bloggers.
I must confess I am not immune to this. As someone who loves basketball, I am constantly trying to keep up with the new releases of Air Jordans and similar basketball sneaker brands. I am unashamed to say that YouTubers who produce content on sports gear have influenced my purchases. It’s easier and less time consuming than going to a bunch of stores trying to decide which ones I want.
The Everyday Influencer
I define an influencer as an individual who has the ability, either natural or acquired, to affect the decisions and choices that people make, consciously or subconsciously. Influence happens when people observe you live your life, share your ideas, teach your philosophies and do what you do to the best of your abilities. As they observe you, they become interested in mimicking or replicating you. Their interest is sparked by observation, which transforms their opinions, preferences or actions.
At this point, you might be thinking that influencing is not for you. You might say to yourself, ‘I don’t qualify to be an influencer, because I am not a leader. I don’t have the type of personality it takes to be an influencer’. I am here to tell you that it’s not true. It has long been said by sociologists that even the most introverted of people will influence 10,000 others in an average lifetime. In other words, every one of us, even the shy ones, are influencing others.
A Rare Breed of Influencer
I believe that true influence is more than the ability to affect people’s choices on matters contained in the physical world. The world might celebrate YouTubers who help you select the latest brand of smartphone, use makeup, or increase your charisma. The world might honor those who offer life hacks, time-management tips or advice on how to increase income. However, from my perspective, this is only part of the picture; true influence is much more.
If you think about it, the Bible is essentially a book about influence. God reveals Himself to a group of people, so that they may reveal God to the rest of humanity. The injunction is to ‘go and make disciples of all the nations’ (Matthew 28:19). You are a disciple of Jesus for your generation. Discipleship is influence with a spiritual edge. Disciples are influencers who make influencers.
True influence bridges the gap between the physical and the spiritual. It is being able to be a renowned surgeon and show people how to live a godly life. It is being a skilled architect who attributes his gift to his spiritual foundation. It is being a successful businessperson who remains humble and generous because of an awareness of God’s provision. It is inspiring other people by your sense of responsibility, gratitude and integrity.
Influencers work as though God is their boss and understand that their role or position is an assignment from Him to influence the world. These people are the rare breed of influencer. They live and work in such a way that those watching them are influenced by their spiritual character.