As humans, we share stories of experiences that have a positive, neutral or negative impact on something that triggered us to take action. Having a communications degree, I remember studying the variables involved in how communication is delivered and came to the same conclusion now as I did in college: people drive interest about any topic through their sincerity in how they tell their stories.
Every human has 3-dimensional experiences, which makes every perspective different from the next, without potential of complete replication. These experiences become uniquely shareable. This level of sharing comes at us every day in advertising, on the radio, in a magazine, or on television. But NONE of this is as strong as your closest friend telling you what they think around that same topic. The next time you are talking with someone, take note about how many experiences were mentioned (or inferred) and whether it made an impact on the way you spend your time and money. People influence people.
Here's a great example. I've been thinking about getting a bike, and I know the first person I would go to is my friend David. Not only has he owned all kinds of bikes, but he took the time to get to know all the brands, the local store owners, and the model differences for every style of riding. David is my friend - we hang out, have shared some beers - so he wins in my eyes for being more trustworthy than a stranger store owner whose motivations are, I know, to sell me a bike. I know that there's nothing in it for David to steer me toward one bike or another; he's just excited at the prospect of gaining another riding buddy (win/win). Like most influencers, David doesn't actually realize how much influence he has over my purchasing a bike, he simply loves to ride and has put a lot of thought and energy into the topic. It's his sincerity and passion for riding that drives him to seek knowledge about it and want to share, and it's this passion that deems him a trustworthy, knowledgeable source in my eyes to ask about which bike I should get.
So here's a question: Should David get paid to influence me? After all, he's put in all the time, effort and serious research to make sure he could suggest what would work for me. Maybe for David, the concept of getting paid to endorse products is new to him, but to Hollywood and athletes, they've been doing it for years. I think we all question whether they actually use the products they are getting paid to sell on camera, and for me, that's a major distinction. If actual real, everyday people are using products and sharing their experiences and knowledge with others....why shouldn't they get paid?
Is it inauthentic for an enthusiast to reap the monetary benefits of his passion? Is it crossing a line to move from word of mouth influencer to paid endorser of a product you already love? Is there room in influence marketing to blur the lines between paid and earned media?
If you haven't read Porter Gale's book "Your Network is Your Net Worth", she walks through a great formula for picking your sweet spot for influencing the right things that make sense for you. I highly recommend reading her book not just for this formula, but the book is all around awesome! (Did I influence you to buy it? I hope so. Full disclosure, I did not get paid to say that, Porter is a friend, I want to help her succeed and I truly loved her book. Do you trust me more, or less?)
KEY TAKEAWAY: Everyone has a unique perspective on something. If you're looking for answers, question your influencer's motivations for sharing; are they benefitting in a way that's authentic, or are they in it for something else? Then you be the judge if their shared experience triggers you to take action, one way or another.