Rise of the micro-influencer Part 1
In the good old days- celebrities were GODs. Underexposed, overpaid and timeless. The era of good old mass exposure lasted in its full glory for about 5 decades. And it made stars out of achievers in every field. Now Hang on. Before you think this is another one of those rants about mass media being traditional and obsolete- it is not. And no matter how ‘digitally partial’ I am, neither do I subscribe to the rhetoric that TV, print or radio is dead. Or will be in the foreseeable future. A detailed debate on that in another post.
This is an article I wrote about two months ago, and saved as drafts. While clearing the cobwebs off my blogzine, I realized this might be something that has been touched upon many a times ever since (or before), but still has merit in the sense that the story is told in a different way- and touches a different aspect. Let me know what you think. This was recently also covered in iMediaConnection, a mouthpiece on Digital Marketing, albeit I am also using the detailed version of the story here.
Who were they? Movie stars and television actors with lead roles, popular rock stars, high-ranking politicians, national television reporters, television show hosts, supermodels, successful sports people and chart-topping pop musicians form the major chunk. But not just limited to the glamorous professions, newspaper editors, book writers and some humanitarian leaders such as Mother Teresa or Aung San Su Chi achieved recognition because of their imagination capturing work in the field of social upliftment. There are numerous other examples, but you get the idea.
These celebrities had enormous power to influence perceptions and mould behaviors:James Dean making an entire generation swear by jeans to Beatles shaping the cultural revolution of the 60s to John McEnroe making attitude ‘the’ thing on the court.
As the era came closer to the 21st century, a new breed of celebrities came up. These guys had international recognition, but were not the best in their chosen field. Think Anna Kournikova. They need not have been the best- but they had an appeal that captured the imagination of a certain sect of the society. Sometimes the presentation made them enjoy a following (think a doctor TV show host or a celebrity chef) They became celebrities in their own might. And that might not have had something to do with their original professions.
The era changed- and then dawned the fastest growing and extremely powerful era. The Digital Era. And in this era, celebrity-ism assumed a significantly micro role. Now, not only it might not have anything to do with your original profession- it might also not be dependent on the media owners. It might rather be a passion or hobby that makes a person recognized and alongside, the digital democracy also opened the doors to countless enthusiasts or followers pending the right content!
Mass appeal due to profession magnified by mass media (Cinema actors and rock stars)-> mass appeal due to posturing beyond actual profession (sex appeal vs tennis proficiency)-> niche appeal due to content association and abundant accessibility (you)
Not only is this “marketing game changing”, but it also has a socio-cultural impact. Japan and Korea are the most wired countries in the world. Almost every one has a blog (and a broadband connection). Interestingly, they are also two immensely celebrity loving nations. They have always loved their celebrities and given them demi god status. But they also demand a lot from them.
In this connected era, it is quite clear how this phenomenon of magnifying the actions of people in public eye impacts the society. The people who create content or are subject of content can quickly rise or ‘have a great fall’. They can make pariahs of their subjects or make others rise to the dizzying heights of fame. Think the ‘poo girl’ (not linking to the story lest it causes fresh trouble for the subject- after years of that video) or the various open to public shame stories- bounced relentlessly – because they were picked up by someone of a certain authority at some stage.
These guys are not celebrities. Oh well, not in the usual sense of the word. They are not the usual pop star glitzbash guys that you associate celebrity-ism with. But they do enjoy influence within their circles- their circle of influence. The hook is- all their circles are interconnected. And the collective ripple is stronger than the charming authority of a cinema hero.
The era has dawned. The era of the Micro-Celebrity. Sorry- correction. The era of the Micro-Influencer.
…continued in post 2 on this subject
thumbnail credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/866701286/sizes/o/