By: Lian Dolan
I aspire to be a bigger influencer in 2019. All the kids are doing it and I want in. How hard can it be to convince your friends and family to buy stuff you’ve been given for free? I’ve had a lot of other jobs with suspicious titles, both currently and in the past, like: momblogger (wince), podcaster (increasingly tier 1) and ski host (fancy title for ski bum with a uniform). This influencer business seems like something that could be valuable to my ego and bottom line.
Recently, a click-bait headline from the Daily Mail caught my attention: “Confessions of a Wannabe Influencer.” The article told the compelling tale of a 20-something Instagram star who spent most of her time photographing herself in mirrors while wearing fitness clothing.
Sure, it was hard staying in camera-ready shape and posing herself in the most flattering angle for every shot. And she’d had some anxiety issues, thanks to the constant scrutiny of living her entire life online. But, she had just landed a deal promoting vegan condoms! How could I not want in on that?
Having influence used to be reserved for people like teachers, public servants, first ladies, and Mother Teresa. You know, people who actually influence others in terms of their intellectual, spiritual, or political life, making the world a better place to live. How quaint. Now anyone with a smartphone and the desire to be relentlessly self-promotional can add the word influencer to their social media profile as long as they can translate followers into purchasers.
Here’s the three-step process for becoming an influencer: take photos; add a dozen hashtags; check integrity at the door. Then, watch those vegan condom deals come rolling in. At least that’s the impression I got when I studied “How to Become an Influencer: 10 Tips for Success” on the Forbes website. I stopped at No. 8 because that tip was “Collab.” Hey, Forbes, if you don’t have time to write the entire word collaborate, then I really don’t have time to read all 10 tips.
I know that over the years I’ve had a small amount of influence on my community. (“Community” is what you’re supposed to call your listeners, readers, and Facebook friends when you work in the online space. And “online space” is what we call, um, I don’t know. I’ve never really understood what it is. Could it be The Cloud?)
Anywho, I know that over the years of doing my podcast and writing books, my work has inspired people to visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, discover Friday Night Lights, and order surprisingly flattering and sophisticated black sequined pants from Chico’s based upon my recommendations. I’ve never been paid a dime by these entities, but I’m proud of my accomplishments: mo’ Shakespeare, mo’ Riggins, mo’ sequins. I’m no “celeb influencer” like Reese or Gwyneth or any of the Kardashians, but I could live a contented life knowing that phrase may be on my tombstone.
This is the year I take my influence to the next level, upping my hashtag game and perfecting my promotional selfie. I’m grateful that in Pasadena we have plenty of gentle souls doing the truly hard work of influence: teaching our kids; putting out wildfires; working the night shift at the ER; paying a living wage to employees; volunteering at Union Station; making art, music, theater; running for office for all the right reasons; ministering to elderly people; saving old buildings in town so they can be turned into high-end retailers.
It’s a relief that others are doing meaningful work so I can work my Instagram account for all it’s worth. Thank you. All I really want out of my influence-peddling efforts is a comped Viking River Cruise for two, a sure sign that I watch too much Masterpiece Theatre and that my curiosity about the world extends about as far as visiting fairy-tale castles along the Rhine River while wearing a Land’s End trench coat surrounded by similarly clad middle-aged travelers. Viking River Cruise = my #vegancondom.