I was struggling to control a classroom of first graders. My kids’ school invited me to speak about being a writer. It felt like I was asking a herd of raccoons to politely eat a dozen donuts. I asked them, “What job would you like to have when you grow up?” About a third of the kids answered “YouTuber”. I wasn’t ready for this. 

We’re living at an interesting time. Even as a relatively young parent, I can say with this with confidence; my kids are growing up in a different world than I did. Everyone, even first graders, seems to want to be paid to influence others.

Our friends at Axis recently discussed “influencers” in their Culture Translator. They describe an “influencer” as “a person who uses their social media presence and platforms to influence others to believe, buy, or do something (or commonly, all three). Importantly, an influencer ultimately uses his/her power to market products (their own or someone else’s) to their large online following and by doing so, they also make money, which is why it’s now considered a job.”   

Yes, these first graders have it right; influencing others can be a job. People are making big money marketing with their lives. You’re probably following some influencers. You likely trust much of what they post, consume and say. Axis adds, “One of the most attractive parts of being an influencer is the idea of getting paid to ‘live your best life’ and do what you would already be doing.”

Being paid to just live your life and post about it sounds pretty good to most of us. I realize a few of you are screaming, “That sounds awful! (I see you Enneagram 5s and 6s). Currently the Google search for “What does it take to be an Influencer?” has about 56,500,000 results. It’s fair to say people want influence… or at least the fame and money that come with it.

As a parent and a developer of leaders, this concerns me. Sure, there are heaps of relational nightmares, physical dangers, and narcissism attached to this, but that’s not all that concerns me. The word “influencer” has been hijacked. We’re in grave danger of thinking influence is reserved for individuals with massive social media followings and savvy brands. We start believing we didn’t get the invited to the influence party with the cool kids.

So, what DOES it take to be an influencer?

A heartbeat. If you’re a human you have influence. We all shape the thoughts, actions, and lives of others around us at some level. We can become so distracted watching others influence the masses thinking, actions and spending that we forget we have influence with those in our circles. Influence isn’t about social media or selling stuff; it’s about example.

Who do you regularly influence?

How are you being an example to them? 

* If you’re a parent you can also download Axis’ Parents Guide to Influencers.