I 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.