Social media influencers vs genuine thought leaders: Who has the real power over their followers?

If there’s anything that most people do on a daily basis aside from eat and sleep these days, it’s logging in on their preferred social media. Whether that’s Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or any other platform, the concept of “Social Media Influencers” was founded on the initial belief that if someone has thousands of followers, s/he has the power to “influence” others to like or dislike something, to recommend buying something or to discourage people from getting something.

In a glance, this seems like a very powerful tool to reach your target audience, seeing as there are social media influencers who only operate on their own niche – beauty, travel, foodies, techies are the most common. Nowadays, even marketing agencies have considered or might have already begun using “influencer marketing” as part of their strategy to reach their goals for their clients.

On the other hand, “Genuine Thought Leaders” are those who, prior to getting in on social media, were already experts in their chosen field. People followed them as they were very knowledgeable about whatever topic it is that they discuss on social media.

According to Elinor Cohen of , there’s more value to work with a genuine thought leader as while the numbers might be low, the brand is sure to benefit from the possibility of these engaged followers to make the purchase decision. Social Media Influencers on the other hand maybe have a five digit following, but still fall short on conversions.

“Business wise, a brand would benefit more from working with a thought leader, who has 5000 real and engaged followers, who could become real and paying 5000 customers, than a buzzword thrower with 20k-50k followers (or more) who are only following thanks to herd behavior and who are not likely to pay for a product or a service. Real thought leaders *care* and make a point to be knowledgeable about the topics they cover.” said Cohen.

To sum it up: not all social media influencers are genuine thought leaders, but genuine thought leaders can become social media influencers as their following grows. In this age where likes, views, comments, and shares can easily be bought – what matters more is the authentic engagement you will get when you work with the right people.

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