Welcome to the Influence economy, where digital marketing and savvy social media skills come together. GETTY
If you ask the average person what an influencer is, they might describe a woman on Instagram posting photos in a bikini, holding a weight loss product and encouraging her followers to purchase it. Several surveys conducted of young people around the world have stated that “Influencer” is one of the most desired career options that children and teens around the world aspire to pursue. Although making videos for social media and posting them in hopes of getting sponsorships might seem appealing to many because of the ability to generate fast money and a lot of attention, many entrepreneurs are proving that there is more than one way to be an influencer.
Some of the biggest influencers in the world do not necessarily have to have millions of followers on social media to make a tremendous impact on their industries. From encouraging people to pursue the life of their dreams, to influencing industries to operate more efficiently or more ethically, or even helping and encouraging people to tell their stories, many forward-thinking entrepreneurs are proving there is no single answer to what it means to be an influencer. Although some of them accumulate large followings along the way, here are some of the rising stars in business who do not measure their influence with likes, comments and shares, but rather by how much impact they can make on the most people around the globe.
Grant Cardone - Cardone Capital
"I'm not an influencer, I'm a businessman!" says Grant Cardone, a New York Times bestselling author and one of the top sales trainers in the world. Grant found success in promoting his ideas on social media about how to be successful. He is now internationally renowned as an expert on leadership, real estate investing, entrepreneurship, social media, and finance. Forbes named Grant Cardone #1 of the "25 Marketing Influencers to Watch in 2017" and he has since garnered millions of fans and followers around the globe.
Grant's ability to share his views on the economy, the middle class and business have made him popular among many people who want more from their lives and do not have a blueprint on how to get there. He urges his followers and clients to make success their duty, responsibility, and obligation. Grant has turned his social media influence into real-world influence by creating a way for investors to partner with him to generate residual income through real estate.
A.C. Evans - Drips.com
“Influence in B2B is all about quality, not quantity like in B2C. It does not require you to have 20 million followers; it just requires you to have the right 20 followers. A strong record of success in your specific field will keep you top of mind when your subject matter comes up with a thought leader in the industry network you are trying to ascend into. They refer you because they trust your company will help their client’s specific needs, which will elevate them. When that happens, their influence has become your own” says Aaron Christopher Evans, CEO and Co-Founder of Drips.com, who knows a thing or two about staying at the top of decision-makers' minds.
Drips is the first platform of its kind, engaging in hundreds of millions of completely humanized conversations at scale via text messaging without using any actual client-side operators. Their proprietary system, which is loved by customers who can now avoid all the unknown missed calls and can talk when it is convenient for them, is also loved and trusted by some of the world's largest brands. "A.C" Evans was recently recognized as a top marketer in this years' 40 under 40 for being a change agent in the way businesses communicate with their consumers.
Evans has been able to influence leading organizations to collaborate with him by consistently innovating and delivering incredible results. He has been able to produce major growth for Drips while establishing himself as a valued thought leader and pioneer in the emerging industry of Conversational Texting(R), a category he founded. He continues to prove his leadership by helping establish many of the best practices being adopted within his industry today, revolutionizing the tired call center methodology which preceded his influence.
Nicolas Hoffman - SKYLL Network
"We are using Influencers to get in touch with new customers for the first time. We have found this a successful way to help companies to be authentic, gain popularity, and increase sales," says Nicolas Hoffman, Head of Advertising for SKYLL Network. Nicolas and his partners Silas Bräunling, Luca Bräunling and Luca Kaiser started growing their Instagram Accounts and amassed a following of over three million followers while they were still in school.
After graduating, the fellow co-founders partnered up and started the social media agency SKYLL.network. Their team advises and manages business’ and celebrities’ Social Media accounts. The agency uses different platforms like Instagram, Facebook Ads, Google, YouTube, and even TikTok to sell products and grow the popularity of the brands that they work with.
Their goal is to use celebrities and influencers to help bring their clients' ideas to life in the most successful way possible. The team figured out how to use the algorithms on different platforms to benefit their clients. SKYLL.network uses social media, influencers, and media buying to increase sales and traffic to their clients. One of their secrets is using "user-generated content," which is high-quality content generated by Influencers to help position a brand authentically while advertising.
Alex Tarnava - Drink HRW
“It's important to use influence for the pursuit of both truth and ethical business practices. Far too many use their refined skills of persuasion and influence dishonestly. Battling these bad actors while maintaining one's integrity is critical. When influence matches influence, truth prevails" says Alex Tarnava, the CEO of Drink HRW and the primary inventor of a clinically validated tablet that creates hydrogen water, an emerging industry and field of academic study.
Drink HRW offers various products for consumers, primarily hydrogen water creating tablets, and also supplies custom products to many other companies around the world. Alex Tarnava has worked to influence the emerging hydrogen water industry as he recognizes the importance of both honest and truthful messaging to the public, as well as the damage fraudulent messaging can do to an overall industry.
By working with many brands, distributors and social media influencers, honest messaging becomes ingrained in the culture. Alex strives for this, as copycats will become more likely to replicate truthful advertising than unethical and fraudulent advertising. Simultaneously, Alex and his company have worked with public researchers around the world-donating product for research under no publication agreement, so that industry-messaging progresses as scientific understanding is pursued and refined.
Steve and Evan Tan - The Tan Brothers
"We have generated millions of dollars for eCommerce stores through Facebook Ads and other marketing techniques. As 8-figure eCommerce entrepreneurs, we share knowledge and experiences through our masterminds and online groups and by coaching other professionals in our classes. Thousands of students have benefited from our expertise" says Steve Tan, one-half of the Tan Brothers, who along with his brother Evan Tan have become two of the most dynamic influencers in the digital marketing space.
Steve and Evan are serial entrepreneurs who have founded several startups over the past decade. One of their many claims to fame is earning eight figures in revenue from eCommerce stores, one of which was able to generate several hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single day. Combined, the Tan Brothers have helped influence more than 50,000 students by delivering them valuable, actionable steps to help their businesses grow.
Ulyses Osuna - Influencer Press
“Influence to me is being able to control what someone sees about you - which then leads to you being able to control what they think about you. So PR is organized truth. We use it in our marketing to close the gap between a prospect not knowing us, to knowing, liking and trusting us based on what we want them to see about us” says Ulyses Osuna, the founder of Influencer Press, a PR firm that manages publicity for Influencers & a few clients worth over $100m.
Influencer Press helps influencers amplify what they are currently doing to maximize their current traction channels through PR. In a digital world, those who truly have something to share have an incredible opportunity to leverage the value they can offer to become influencers in their industry. With endless channels, platforms, and audiences, it is easier than ever to become an influencer, especially to a niche audience.
Gary Vaynerchuk - VaynerMedia
Rising to niche prominence as a wine YouTuber, Vaynerchuk was part of the first group of innovators who made the realization that the internet would expand to include far more than blogs and news sites. More than ten years ago, he and his brother launched VaynerMedia, a digital agency for some prominent brands.
They targeted businesses who were well funded with big budgets, but who were still yet to wrap their heads around how to transition their marketing away from traditional platforms like television, radio and magazines and move over to where audiences had moved to. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat had, and continue to take over, which has created an ongoing need for brands to stay on the cutting edge of new strategies to influence their customers.
“At this point, we all know that I’m no stranger to the concept of influencer marketing. I’m hot on it. I do it, my clients do it, and I even represent people who do it. Gary, how do I become an influencer? The really funny first answer is that you have to have talent.
The next funny answer is that you have to put in a ton of work.” - Gary Vee.
Kurt Cagle is Managing Editor for Cognitive World, and is a contributing writer for Forbes, focusing on future technologies, science, enterprise data management, and technology ethics. He also runs his own consulting company, Semantical LLC, specializing on Smart Data, and is the author off more than twenty books on web technologies, search and data. He lives in Issaquah, WA with his wife, Cognitive World Editor Anne Cagle, daughters and cat (Bright Eyes).