In the not far distant past, most influencers were in existence because of their presence on either one of two channels or regular appearances in newspapers and magazines. They were heavily reliant on the expertise of marketing and PR agencies.
So why all the fuss ? We have entered the world where everyone because of platforms such as Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can now become influencers and where algorithms can allow an individual to become an influencer globally. Everyone individual is now a PR company and capable of telling a story without the need for an external agent.
But as a business leader or entrepreneur – Is it important to have a profile ? Is it essential that you
become an influencer on the back of your profile – is it important to have a presence on social media?
Or should you stick to your ‘day’ job ?
Why would you want to become an influencer ? There is clear evidence that influencers who have the power to influence can increase the sales of products or services of their organisation. We have heard of millionaire you tubers selling their influence and becoming celebrities and attracting the attention of big brands who can leverage this popularity– but has this new technology allowed the emergence of a business influencer ?
“We have always been aware of the business adage – ‘it’s who you know not what you know’– but with this democratising software and social media platforms – it really has become a question of ‘who knows you’?”
Individuals and entrepreneurs through clever use of social media can not only increase the brand awareness of their product but can also increase sales and the reputation of their business and products.
But these influencers can come in different guises – they can motivate others to dream big and believe in themselves and could also teach valuable lessons in business too. Their views and decisions can also influence businesses in direct ways. Some of these individuals now term themselves as ‘thought leaders’ with views on how businesses should be run and run huge businesses with an aim to ‘motivate’ businesses and individuals to achieve more ( Tony Robbins is probably the best known with over 3 million followers).
We have been researching (non-scientific) and have identified our top 25 business influencers and of course this list is subjective. We have looked at hard quantitative data such as followers on social media platforms, in others we have looked at their ability to influence public policy ( Government lobbying ) and finally those who hold positions of power to institute public policy which does affect some if not all businesses ( e.g. Chancellor of the Exchequer – Rishi Sunak and Metro mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street ). Others include CEO’s who are now also huge business influencers both in themselves or because they work for huge brands.
But please note some caveats – we have not physically checked every follower on every platform so there may be an element of ‘fake’ followers. Whilst several followers show the potential to influence, this may not reflect the true influence of an individual – three individuals come to mind:
1.– the infamous Dominic Cummins has no presence on twitter despite being acknowledged as the most powerful unelected influence within no.10 Downing St
2. and the most powerful man in UK finance ( with the exception of Rishi Sunak) is Andrew Bailey who is inconspicuous by his absence on social media. A single utterance of a word from the Governor of the Bank of England can move markets, change expectations, affect the value of sterling and indirectly the interest paid on business loans and business investment. All proclamations from him are channelled through the institutions’ official channels. How he works with the Chancellor and other Governors of Central Banks will be instrumental in how the world recovers from Covid 19.
3. The most powerful woman on earth is Germany’s Chancellor – Angela Merkel who hardly registers at 66k followers on twitter, but the infamous picture of her confrontation with Trump remains the most iconic.
So why all the fuss about business influencers? Is it important for a leader to be an influencer and do they need to be so public and accessible on social media?
Should CEO’s and business leaders avoid social media to prevent faux pas. Incidents have included Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk being forced to resign his Chair role at Tesla because of his tendency to post on social media, oblivious to how his comments have such impact on the stock value of his business.
Such is the power of social media many employees are asked to have all their comments checked by legal representatives to ensure that the communications are sound and will not offend stakeholders and society at large.
So, who are the movers and shakers in the world of business influence? (see chart).
Business and Politics:
The relationship between business and politics has always been an intertwined one. Politicians look to business to create employment and business look at politicians and senior policy makers to ensure that the environment to create wealth is a conducive one where start-ups can flourish and where obstacles to growth are minimised.
So our top 25 are :
Politicians/Senior Policy makers
1. Donald Trump is not only regarded as the most disruptive President of all time uses on a prolific basis the twitter platform (83 million followers) to reach out his followers. He no longer cares what mainstream press say – he simply bypasses them and reaches his audience directly including international leaders. His words are monitored by Twitter who occasionally issue a warning that his twitter feeds may be ‘fake news’. He is keen to be as anti-Chinese as possible especially around We chat and Tik-Tok in order to stoke up his chances of a re-election . His stance around the unresolved US and China trade battle will affect all businesses whatever the outcome. He has rallied against climate change and now be in a key position to negotiate a US trade deal with the UK ( should he be re-elected ). Instagram – He played an influential role in imposing sanctions against Iran and persuaded the UK government to drop Huawei. Instagram followers – 21.6 million.
2. Boris Johnson comes in at almost 3 million and the recently appointed Rishi Sunak has accelerated into almost 400k twitter followers because of his recent intervention in the Covid 19 crisis and is seen as a favourite leadership contender and PM.
3. The President of the European Central Bank – Christine Lagarde – is and will be hugely influential in the way the EU and the global economies revive and thrive going forward. She commands a following of over 650k followers on twitter.
4. Despite devastation caused by Covid 19 and a 24% drop in GDP, India’s PM Narendra Modi continues to remain popular aided by his parliamentary majority in the world’s largest democracy with a following of over 62 million twitter followers. His role will become important for the UK post Brexit era.
1. A clear winner is Bill Gates dominating both Twitter and LinkedIn even though he only owns 1% of Microsoft. His forebodings around a lethal virus 5 years ago has attracted a lot of attention recently and has been the subject of conspiracy theories.
2. Despite his recent troubles with his Airline and the associated brand damage – Richard remains highly influential on both Twitter and LinkedIn.
3. Warren Buffet – a highly influential investor who has a relatively low social media following but whose investor meetings are attended by thousands still can move markets on his own.
4. The most powerful woman on the list is the media celebrity Oprah Winfrey with 42 million twitter followers and although her media empire is not what it used to be – she is still a force in the US and globally.
5. The youngest influencer who hit the media headlines recently by building a £1 billion company through clever use of Instagram is Birmingham’s founder of Gymshark – Ben Francis.
6. The founder of Amazon ( Jeff Bezos )who has flourished during the COVID outbreak – only follows one person – his ex-wife !!!!! Interesting !!!!
Whilst the numbers above are huge, should all entrepreneurs and senior business leaders adopt a social media presence ? It is regarded as time consuming and often left for PR companies and marketing departments…
1. By being open and transparent – that is by being available on social media, places a positive view of the leaders in front of its stakeholders including customers who feel that the top person is available. It also builds trust. ‘Companies with leaders active on social media are perceived 21% more positively than companies with inactive leaders’
2. A very positive method of communicating with an organisation’s employees. Around 65%of US employees say it’s important for CEO’s to actively communicate about their companies online (Business Insider 2019).
3. Leaders can also get a sense of what their customers are thinking of them and what the major issues are in their industry and at large.
4. Improves brand awareness. People prefer to follow people than organisations.
5. Leaders can become aware of opportunities and can shape an argument.
We will be exploring the merits of being ‘open’ to social media and how you too can be a significant business influencer in the next issue… till then…..