What does it mean to be an influencer?

Honestly, it depends on who you ask. 

While some people dream of being six-figure earning Instagram influencers others are wishing the word “influencer” could be banned. 

Tom Godwin,  the head of innovation for ZenithMedia, told AdWeek at the end of 2018 that he hopes influencer marketing will die out in 2019. Though he acknowledges it’s a good tactic for some industries, Godwin says influencer marketing has quickly descended into “hot people holding things.”

To be honest, this is how I had come to define the word influencer, too. So when I was invited last month to attend a luncheon for local influencers I wasn’t quite sure what to think. First of all, I don’t have a gazillion Instagram followers, which I often feel is a requirement to bear that title. And secondly, if you scroll through my feed you’ll see that “hot people holding things” is hardly my theme. 

My BFF Jacqui Jones of One Degree MMM and I at the #UnSelfie2019 Influencer Luncheon
(photo by Eric Gray Photography)

But the title of this event caught my attention — #UnSelfie2019 Influencer Luncheon. Presented by United Way of Central Alabama and hosted by social media and public relations pro Maree Jones, this event was all about how to use your social media influence for good, for positive change in your community and beyond. So my BBF marketing guru Jacqui Jones of One Degree MMM and I headed to the event.

Maree Jones presenting at the #UnSelfie Influencer Luncheon
(photo by Eric Gray Photography)

“Let’s redefine what it means to be an influencer,” Maree said in her opening remarks. Then she showed us exactly how we could.

Maree outlined the mission and values of the United Way and then showed up how we could apply these same ideals to our social media presence. 

The United Way values she highlighted included the following: helping people, accountability, efficiency, excellence, voluntary giving, and integrity and fairness.

Ready to improve your digital character? Consider ways you can use your social media to help others. In fact, Maree even challenged us to be bold enough to one day post on social media “How can I help you today?”

I often use the See Jane Write Network Facebook group that I manage not just as a place to promote myself and not just as a virtual place to hang out with fellow writers, but as a place where I can serve others. I invite my group members to ask me questions about things they need help with.

Yes, I took a selfie at the “UnSelfie” luncheon, but only because Maree Jones told us to.

With regard to accountability, during the session, Maree said a sentence I will never forget: You are responsible for your followers. Wow! As a trained journalist I’ve always felt responsible for the people who read my articles and even my blog posts, but, to be honest, I never extended that to social media — until now.

Maree explained that efficiency and excellence are important because we need to manage our time well so that we can be creative with social media and so that we can honestly say that each thing we post is an example of our best work.

Then we took a group photo with the folks at our table and that was so much more fun — which was exactly the point of that little exercise. Social media is so much better when it’s not all about us!

As for voluntary giving, one of my favorite things about social media is that it allows you to easily raise money for the causes you care about. You can raise money and awareness for organizations like United Way. I recently raised over $400 for Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO), a local creative writing program for kids, and every fall I raise about $1,000 for the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.

And finally, I believe integrity and fairness go hand in hand with the idea of accountability. If I’m focused on being fair and maintaining my integrity I will fact check the things I share. I will give people the benefit of the doubt instead of attacking them simply because we disagree and I will focus on lifting people up instead of putting them down. 

If I’m living out these values on social media and IRL and motivating others to do the same I suppose that makes me an influencer after all.

Since I’m an influencer and all, follow me on Instagram @seejavaciawrite and be sure to join the See Jane Write Network Facebook group!