By: Jacqui Mackway-Wilson

I’m not going to be popular for saying it and there will be those who disagree, but contrary to what the naysayers might have you believe, online influence is not directly correlated to the number of followers or friends you have.  Here’s why:

  • Many ‘influencers’ have a large number of fake followers and friends.

These can usually be attributed to them purchasing friends or followers, which, apart from being a somewhat dubious practise, also makes little strategic sense if you are in fact trying to build a real community and really influence people.  Don’t take my word for it though. Find out for yourself at www.twitteraudit.com It’s free and you can run an audit on any Twitter account you like.

Of course, we might all unwittingly end up following some fake accounts along the way.  Their creators set them up with the sole purpose of spamming anyone and everyone they come into contact with (this is one way to recognise them). If your own account manages to score above 90% on an audit, you’re doing ok with avoiding the spammers.  If not, time to consider a little account clean up. You can use a tool like www.tweepi.com or www.justunfollow.com to help.

  • Influence cannot be measured.

Preposterous claim you cry! Let me ask you this: how many of the friends and/or followers of the so-called ‘influencers’ online today are actually influenced by them? The reason I ask is because there is a bigger question behind it.   That is: how do we measure influence?

Influence, the verb, according to the Oxford English Dictionary means:  “…to affect the mind or action of;  to move;  to have an effect on”

As an avid Ellie Goulding fan it can be said that she influences me because she has an effect on me. When I hear her latest single, I am moved to download it on iTunes. When I see her Instagram fitness posts, I feel motivated and it inspires me to heart her picture. This is the effect of her influence of me and these actions can be measured. The influence itself, however, cannot.

Platforms like www.klout.com and www.kred.com have tried and in my opinion, have failed miserably to quantify online influence based on algorithms that examine your online levels of activity, engagement and association. Sure, they may give an indication, but how do you measure the subtle nuances of human emotion, thoughts and feelings (the influence/effect) that lead to action?  Can an algorithm accurately tell how the joke I shared on Facebook this morning really made my friends feel? Is their ‘like’ in response to it, a true reflection of my influence on them? Perhaps it is and in many cases, sometimes, perhaps not.   We can see the effects of influence, but struggle to measure influence itself.

An example of online influence in my own life came about from the work of a creative and talented Cape Town photographer known as Abigail K.  She has influenced me. This happened in several ways and has taken place over a lengthy period of time. (I’ve followed her online since 2011.)

Abigail has painstakingly and meticulously crafted a brand that inspires emotion. She has shown herself to be an innovator in her field by not being afraid to try new approaches and she has always provided social proof of the quality of her work. More than anything, she has been consistent and personable. From a distance, Abigail has sold me on the idea of a shoot with her. *Disclaimer – Abigail and I are not friends. I am not being paid to promote her and I will not be receiving any compensation whatsoever for mentioning her here.

Abigail K is merely an outstanding example of influence and the power of social media where your efforts are a marathon, not a sprint. She also does not have a celebrity-sized following online, perfectly illustrating that it’s not the size of your following that counts; it’s the consistency of your brand message.

The truth is that we are all influencers.

You have the power to influence others in your immediate circles AND beyond.  Big brands, super models, sport stars and celebrities might have you rather believe otherwise, but you do not need 1,2million Twitter followers or 500 0000 Facebook fans to do it.

Having a voice today is common. There are so many voices online that we have become blasé about it, however, not so long ago, the masses did not enjoy the immense freedom and power to influence that we do now. Use it wisely.

This is the beauty of social media:  every time you post a status update or a tweet, YOU are influencing others. You are wielding the power to affect change in the world in a very real way.

If, like Abigail K, you:

  • Carefully and consistently craft a coherent brand  by all that you say and do online;
  • Provide value through what you share;
  • Delight, educate, entertain and fascinate others;
  • Provide social proof (peer reviews) that support your efforts in the space in which you operate and show you to be trustworthy

you will not only influence others in many imperceptible, immeasurable ways (brightening someone’s day with a joke or a pleasant thought or a helpful article for example), but you will also, over time, influence people to do business with you and even to support the causes you feel strongly about.

Such is the power of influence.

I’m into Social Business; Community & Nation Building; Education; Blogging; Outdoors; Family; Creativity; BigIdeas; Food & Wine. I run and own: http://www.gosocialsa.co.za Tweet me @GoSocialSA.


  1. What an absolute humbling honour it is to be mentioned in your blog post. I completely agree that human emotion cannot be directly & quantifiably measured leading many of use who use the medium to wonder whether our efforts even have any kind of impact. My school of thought has always been to be myself in everything I do, and in doing so, the brand consistency will reveal itself, and therein attracting the kind of following that really appreciates you for being you. It’s always about the quality of your following, not the quantity. That keeps me focussed. Thank you again & thanks to social media for opening up our worlds to be able to interact with the awesome people we wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to do.

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    • I’ve enjoyed watching your online community across channels, develop Abigail. Thanks for being authentic (I know that word that gets thrown around an awful lot) but you’re right in saying that by being yourself you’d attract the right kind of people to you. I believe quality does trump quantity and hopefully down the line, better tools are developed and/or we learn to focus on the right metrics to measure it more accurately.

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  2. Great point, and great article. Cheers.

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  3. This is such a helpful article! I cant believe it has taken me so long to come cross your path! Brilliant opinions and thoughts. x

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  4. Well said! You make very important points and as a new blogger your article will help me a lot

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  5. Wow love this article but then again when u look at sites that connect bloggers with brands they require you to have a lot of followers to be acted for campaigns. What does one do let’s say a beauty blog, you need to blog about beauty products and so on of course you would buy products to review but would it not be nice to get sponsors after a while .

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  6. Thank you for these words. On some level I think I knew, but it’s nice that it was confirmed here. Gives me hope for what the future might bring 😉

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  7. Just what I needed to read! I’m no celebrity with 100k followers but I too am an influencer, just needed someone to confirm it 🙂 #PS: I enjoyed your witty tone, great writing!

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