Do you need a significant number of social media followers to be credible?

Social media has become in many ways a digital religion, maybe even a cult, at least when it comes to how people appreciate the power of likes and followers. This is absolutely true on Twitter, where a person’s follower count is apparently tied to their credibility – rather than what the actual post says.

As a result, those who could make a good point could easily and easily be fired simply because of their lack of followers. On the other hand, those who “work” and try to get followers – like Digital Apostles – can be said to be more credible because so many people follow them.

But is this credible?

“A large number of followers can suggest credibility through a persuasion strategy called ‘social proof,’” explained Dr. Leilani Carver, Director of Strategic Communications and Graduate Leadership at Maryville University. “Social proof, popularized by influential professor Dr. Cialdini, is the idea that if someone is not sure what to do – for example, should I buy this widget? will look to others to see what it does – for example, how many people bought the widget and what review did it give? Then if many people take an action or believe in something, they will probably do the same. “

This can result in a large number of social media followers, as some users are likely to assume that if someone has a large number of followers, they are worth following.

“One problem with granting this numbers-based credibility is that there are ways to trick the system and inflate your numbers – for example, buy subscribers – so subscriber engagement is actually a lot better. reading influence regarding marketing strategy, however, the bigger problem may be that the person with the large number of subscribers just isn’t a credible source, ”Carver added.

In other words, just because you have influence doesn’t mean you are an expert. And just because you have followers doesn’t mean you’re credible on a topic.

“If there is a relationship between credibility and the number of followers a person has on social media, it’s probably the reverse relationship. In other words, the more followers a person has, the fewer they is probably credible, ”added a tech industry analyst. Josh Crandall of Netpop Research.

“There are some who have a lot of integrity for fact and science and amass a significant number of online followers such as Neil deGrasse Tyson (~ 14.2 million on Twitter) and Richard Dawkins (~ 2.9 million ), but the vast majority of popular influencers build their followers through the cult of celebrity – Kylie Jenner (~ 39.2 million) or the power of bombastic rhetoric – Joe Rogan (~ 7.6 million), ”noted Crandall. ”In fact, more than half of the 50 most popular Twitter accounts are those of celebrities, musicians or sports figures. I don’t know what credibility these people have other than presenting their own opinions. And based on what we’ve seen in the recent past – thinks Gina Carano – these opinions can be very subjective and suspect at times. “

Carver also noted that Kylie Jenner’s half-sister Khloe Karadashian has some 192 million Instagram followers.

“Khloe often promotes waist-high sneakers on Instagram,” Carver said. “Yet a credible physician and wellness expert, Dr Alok Patel, reports that waist trainers have no scientific backing, are not effective and may in fact be harmful. Dr Patel, while being a A staunch health advocate, has just 22,400 Instagram followers, compared to Khole’s 192 million. Dr Patel is a credible source when it comes to height and health trainers and yet has considerably fewer followers. Dr. Patel uses the persuasive strategy of authority (eg credibility by title and / or degree). However, the reality is that lies spread faster and wider than the truth. “

Emphasis is on numbers, not content

As stated, the problem is that too much emphasis on credibility and influence is based purely on followers. So the beautiful and the popular immediately have an advantage.

However, this should come as no surprise given the increased use of social media, especially by young people.

“Today, the first thing an individual checks before doing business with you is your social footprint,” warned a tech entrepreneur. Lon Sakfo, author of The Social Media Bible. “Several years ago, before the maturity of the social platform, it was called your ‘digital footprint’.”

Safko noted that in the past, if anyone searched for him, Safko’s digital fingerprint on Google had around 185,000 indexed pages that mentioned him for his various works.

“Now that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms are fully established, my digital footprint now weighs heavily on these three,” he added.

So while Safko is a published author of several books, his credibility rating could be compared to those who simply have lots of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn connections.

Metrics dependency

None of this would be a serious problem except that the focus is on followers, likes, shares, etc. This can have an impact on the roles attributed to the actors, on the fact that the articles written by journalists are really taken seriously and especially on our political future.

The world is moving more and more based on followers and tastes, and the impact that could have

“To have an impact means to have the power to make a significant and lasting change”, explained James R. Bailey, professor of leadership at the George Washington University School of Business.

“Charles Dickens didn’t have an Instagram account, but he almost single-handedly changed UK labor law,” Bailey said. “Donna Tartt, perhaps the greatest living American author, has a Twitter account she has never published to. followers. “

Still, for Safko, he said trying to publish a book today is a challenge, as publishers are also caught up in followers and likes. “It has to be big enough that they can assume that with that size you can sell 10,000 copies of your book. If you don’t have the following, then you are not counted.”

While it is true that someone with a large number of followers could potentially have a better chance of their book becoming a bestseller, too often likes don’t translate into sales. This in itself is another problem.

But really, it all comes down to the fact that we’ve become obsessed, and even obsessed with social media metrics that should be seen as meaningless compared to other metrics of our efforts.

“Can a salesperson’s success be measured by their sales? Bailey mused. “Sure. Can a lawyer’s productivity be measured by billable hours? Sure. Can a professor’s contribution be measured by the number of books published? can one be measured by social media followers? No. No. Never. “

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