Can Social Influencers Be Mentors?

Posted on March 4th 2014

Can Social Influencers Be Mentors?

ImageI should probably start this post off by clarifying I personally do NOT consider myself to be a ‘social influencer’ – I have neither the audience nor the insight of big names like Eve Mayer or Ann Handley. However, I follow the people I consider to be social influencers because I respect their opinions and, oftentimes, want their advice and view on various situations. Interestingly, that’s the same sort of response people have towards their mentors, which made me wonder whether or not these big-name social influencers could be a new kind of digital mentor. I’ve been involved in a few mentor-mentee programs, and typically a good mentor, whether they’re based online or not, displays three qualities.

They need to be storytellers.

Obviously, major social influencers got where they are because they have amazing insight into social marketing, and the skills necessary to turn that insight into engaging content. We follow these people and read their tweets and updates because at the core, we recognize that they’re storytellers who we believe can teach us something. And they usually do. In an infographic on npENGAGE.com, key influencers are noted for being “the loud minority” who are always in the know when it comes to current events, and provide just enough information without overwhelming anyone. Their reach is massive, extending well beyond the people they both do and do not know, but the sheer size of their audience also means that this storytelling needs to be able to be as universal to as many demographics as possible. The best teachers adapt their lectures to fit the needs of their audience, but never stray too far away from the root of the message either.

Daily interaction is a must.

As I’ve said time and time again, social media cannot be treated as a one-way street. Social success hinges on audience interaction and, for the most part, the biggest names of social influence do interact with their audience on a regular basis. They may have to weed through dozens of tweets and messages to make sure they’re not just replying to spambots, but they do talk to their followers; they give advice, joke around, and open these lines of communication. However, for as much as they respond to people who want their advice or compliment the articles they write, these same influencers are also reaching out to other social influencers that they find just as inspiring too.

There cannot be any hero worship.

I’m fairly certain that few people would say they ‘worship’ their favorite social media personalities, but there is a bit of a mystique around influential people. When someone has a built-in audience of hundreds of thousands of people, even a quick retweet or reblog can make you feel giddy at the recognition, but a healthy mentor-mentee relationship is also based in reality. Yes, the mentor teaches and leads the mentee, but the mentor isn’t infallible. And in the social sphere, that’s a great thing. I’ve found that moments when the mentor discusses their own flaws can be just as impactful as when they discuss their successes, if not more so. These are the moments where the mentor reveals that they put their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else, and we are reminded that they are human after all.

In the end, social influencers will always be watched, and interacted with, from afar. Their insights and knowledge are invaluable, but they can’t really be considered mentors. Mentorships are ongoing – they expand beyond the occasional tweet or like into a something concrete. A solid mentor-mentee relationship is built on a healthy amount of communication, and having a “mentor” who doesn’t really interact with you that often, or can’t help you with your specific problems, won’t do you any good. Up-and-coming marketers should thus ask themselves what they are looking for in a mentor, and then look a little closer to home for the perfect fit. 

Deborah Sweeney

Deborah Sweeney

CEO, MyCorporation

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation. MyCorporation provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation and Deborah at @deborahsweeney and on .

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Comments

Madhava Verma Dantuluri
Posted on March 3rd 2014 at 6:56PM

Very true and you have perfectly highlighted the main attrributes that a leader should adopt to ramain at the hero level image.

John Phanchalad
Posted on March 4th 2014 at 3:30AM

I certainly agree with the point on story tellers it's a must!

Avtar Ram Singh
Posted on March 4th 2014 at 5:03AM

This might be a potentially unpopular opinion, but I feel that social media "influencers" are given a little too much credit. People are worshipping everything they say a little too much, and over the past couple of months I've seen enough content from them to clearly say that out of the 20 influencers who everyone quotes and talks about, maybe only 3-4 are actually providing me with any worthwhile input on my Twitter feed or via their blogs.

Perhaps they're meant to be there for the beginners, those that are new to social for 6 months and then find their feet, because in the last six months I've found 2 articles from influencers that I've actually found worth sharing and talking about. I believe a lot of the contributors here at SMT who have so many ideas and a far better and more informed opinion are people who should be taken as influencers.

It's also not "fair" to expect influencers to come up with a brilliant new idea every 5 hours, but is it too much to expect them to not harp about the same thing for 3 months in 10 different ways?

Deborah Sweeney
Posted on March 4th 2014 at 6:23PM

Hi Avtar,

Thanks for reading! You bring up a good point about credit given to influencers and moreover to those who influence through sharing content from other sources but create much less of it on their own. (Hence, why it's even more unfair to expect the source itself to constantly be going, going, going on all cylinders nonstop.) I think the worry here is less on the topic itself that everyone has commentary on. If the commentary is structured and comes with an argument or an interesting point of view, it'll be well received and shared accordingly. Ideally. More often than not it's careful timing and keyword title placement that pivots a mediocre piece to viral stardom. But the lasting legs on a well written article are very telling in how readers reading it realize that it's a good piece and share and view it accordingly, giving it life beyond a flash in the pan moment for an unknown amount of time to come.

- Deborah