There are tons of blog posts and articles about influencers today. Most are in regard to those on social media who have large audiences. I want to divide this group into two categories. There are those who have a large following, but do little to monetize that audience. Then, there are the other half who do monetize their audience. They may make their money via brand promotions or sales. An example of this type would be a person who posts on Snapchat and is paid by a major brand to incorporate their brand into their story. The former, does not have brand deals, and are generally not receiving any payment or making money with their own products, people like Gary Vaynerchuk fall in this category.
What both groups have in common is the ability to move the needle. An influencer, by definition, "the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others." There are many who argue that the number of followers doesn't matter. To a point they are correct. If you have a million followers and no one cares what you say, there is a problem.
The thing is that real influencers have influence. You may not like that, like the anti-vaxxer doctor that thousands believe is a god, though he is responsible for bringing back diseases which had been eradicated in the United States. On the flip side, people like Taylor Swift influences people to be kind and to buy music instead of stealing it.
Influencers get people to take an action, whether it is to watch a snapchat, read and comment on social media content, and for many that can mean influencing people to buy brand X instead of brand Y.
We have been used to celebrities and politicians have this type of "power," but with the rise of Internet "fame," the playing field has been leveled, so that any average Joe with a good idea can produce content which people want to see or read.
There are many claiming to have influence, but the ROI tells the truth. If people don't act on their suggestions, then odds are they are just noise makers.The question you have to ask yourself is do you move the needle or just yap into the air?
Citations: American Psychological Association (APA): influencer. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved March 03, 2015, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/influencer