Under the Influence of Influencers

Somewhere in my workout gear drawer lies a t-shirt that reads "Influencer." I got the shirt on a whim a few months back, not because I fancied myself Instagram famous or Facebook notorious, but because I'm one of the co-founders of the Influential Women in Manufacturing  program. I was convinced I was going to wear this shirt around the office as a reminder that I helped create that program. 

The fact that the t-shirt is buried in my drawer should tell you how well that plan went. 

While at work, wearing a very non-influential sweater, I read this article on The Atlantic about Influencers and how more companies are starting to eschew the high-paid celebrity influencers and, instead, are finding influencers in their own companies. In The Atlantic example, they reference Isabel Campbell, an employee of Macy's speaking about how she buys her clothes from Macy's. She may or may not be highly paid and you most certainly don't really know her, but she's someone who has believability by measure of the fact that she's just like you and me. We can empathize with her -- and want to believe that she really does love shopping at Macy's -- by simple fact that she's an everyday person with everyday problems the most of the rest of us deal with. She's a brand ambassador with influencer potential. 

Think about this for a second -- Who are you more likely to believe when you happen across a brand or a product's website: Someone famous whom you doubt uses a product or brand on the regular or a person who actually works for and uses the brand itself on an almost daily-basis? 

As I read this article and thought about the influencer effect, I also drew a comparison to me writing this blog. For all intents and purposes, I'm basically a nobody as it relates to Food Processing. Most people who know and read Food Processing know our Publisher, Jim Maddox, or our Editor in Chief, Dave Fusaro. They're the brand names that correspond with the magazine. Meanwhile, I run the website and know every nook and cranny of it intimately. I run the social media for Food Processing as well as putting together the emails for the brand as well. Who better to encourage you to read the website than a person enmeshed in it? (For the record, Jim and Dave do read the website and every e-mail, but just don't ask them to touch code).  

The Atlantic article also goes on to talk about how companies are looking inward not only for influencers, but also for inspiration. If influencer marketing can have the same effect on consumers, why can't it have the same effect on our teams?

In the workplace, influencers can be leaders, they can be mentors, or they can be the really smart guy or gal down the hall who always seems to have the best tips and tricks for working more efficiently.  Companies, big and small, could do themselves a favor by identifying who their internal influencers are and giving them a platform to inspire.