On influencers, Doug the Pug & the rise of WhatsApp

Aaaaand (drumroll please) here they are, this morning’s biggest Instagram influencers, by number of followers:

  1. Kim Kardashian
  2. Beyoncé
  3. Ariana Grande
  4. Taylor Swift
  5. Selena Gomez

Yup, in a world populated by some of the greatest minds science, medicine, technology, literature and the humanities has ever seen, where we’re photographing black holes and decoding DNA, planning manned missions to Mars and finding cures for HIV and malaria, the most influential person on Insta can be quoted for saying “I hate it when women wear the wrong foundation colour. It might be the worst thing on the planet when they wear their makeup too light.” Uh huh, the worst Kimmie, the worst.

Look, scanning down the list of social influencers, I can’t say it would be my choice of picks but that’s exactly the point, it’s not. Technology has democratised communication and made it possible for a dog to have 9 million followers (meet Doug the Pug with an impressive 3.8 million followers or Jiff Pom with a howl-inducing 9 million fans).

Not long ago, sharing video content took resources. The kind of kit, crew and costs that belonged almost exclusively to brand ads and breaking news.  Now with a phone, a few bucks worth of airtime and something to say, the world is your audience.

Suddenly anyone can broadcast the news, and we do. All. The. Time. Booty shots, dad bods, breakfast snaps, it’s all out there. We’re all newsmakers. Until we get to work. Then it feels like we take a giant leap backwards and the dominant trend is top down, one-way, structured communication. WTF?

We know that after face-to-face communication, people choose video and yet with the immediacy and convenience of WhatsApp and the ability to shoot a video with a device that fits in our pockets, we still receive a staggering amount of email. Why? What is the invisible forcefield that organisations have created that seems to resist progress in favour of email, email and more email?

If we’re to learn nothing from Kim Kardashian (other than to wear the correct shade of foundation, of course), let it be this: pictures and videos are the best way to grab attention and get your message across.

In a WhatsApp-insta-snap-and-send world, our communication behaviour has been fundamentally changed by social and digital media – and we’re not going back. According to 99firms.com there are currently 1.5 billion WhatsApp users in over 180 countries with the average user checking their WhatsApp 23 times per day. The language we speak has become shorthand.

We don’t want long emails, carefully crafted and checked by four people. We want it fast, as-the-news-is-breaking, on our devices and if the price is a typo or too, then it’s a price we’ll happily pay.

With a collective 570 000 000 followers we can learn a lot from our top Instagram influencers who have mastered the art of messaging that resonates with their audience and keeps them connected, so if you want some of what they’ve got:

  1. Keep it visual – or better yet keep it audio visual with short videos.
  2. Keep your messages short and sharp.
  3. Get on it while it’s hot – don’t wait to reply later, or tomorrow or when you have time, you’ll have lost relevance.
  4. Express your opinion, be interesting, take a side. Towing the corporate line is boring.
  5. Speak in your voice, have a conversational tone – don’t sound like you ate a brochure.

Social and digital media have changed how we communicate – making long-winded and text-heavy emails as relevant as telegrams and snail mail. Consumers – and what are employees if not consumers – want messages that are brief, relevant, on time and delivered to them in the most convenient way possible. Over and out.

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