I’m not a big social media person, so I’m still trying to figure out what exactly an influencer is. How does one get to be an influencer? Why does anyone come to care what a given influencer thinks or likes? How much just comes down to dollars and cents? There’s a lot that I just don’t get, and I rambled a bit about the online world in a recent post.
For the sake of this post, I want to focus on mental health influencers. I don’t know what a mental health influencer is any more than an influencer in general, but at least I can take a bit more of a guess. In the realm of mental health blogging or other online presence, there does at least seem to be a fairly consistent purpose: to raise awareness and challenge stigma. I think that’s a key difference between a mental health influencer and someone who has millions of people following their dumbass videos of them doing dumbass things on Youtube.
When I Google “mental health influencer”, the first result is an article on The Mighty called 5 Instagram influencers who made a difference in my mental health battle. I’ve never heard of any of those 5 people; does that say more about my awareness or their influence? Is there a particular platform that it’s “more” important to be on to be a mental health influencer?
The second hit on Google is an article by Jordan Brown about the Top ten mental health influencers on Twitter. I spend some time on Twitter although I’m not particularly active, and I’m familiar with several of the people he mentions. There certainly seem to be some people who are very active on Twitter, posting many times a day. Is being active what makes an influencer? How about interactive? I notice that some people have similar numbers of users they’re following and vice versa, whereas others have a huge number of followers and a relatively small number of people they’re following. Personally I would prefer the former, but is the latter the mark of an influencer?
The majority of the top Google results I looked through were focused on Instagram, with a few other social media platforms tossed in as well. None were about blogging platforms like WordPress. Sometimes I’ll take a look at blog sites belonging to influencers, and it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of interactive back-and-forth compared to what I see on a lot of the mental health blogs I read on WordPress regularly.
What I like about the WordPress mental health community is that there is a lot of interaction. People who are on this platform seem committed to being here, and see bloggers responding to comments even when they’ve got huge follower numbers. I think an amazing example of this is Caralyn at Beauty Beyond Bones. She’s got over 40,000 followers but she still responds to all her comments and regularly reads other blogs. To me that’s a lot more meaningful than someone who’s got 100K followers on Twitter but doesn’t have the time to interact with their community.
Reach is always going to be part of being an influencer. However, I believe that connection is what really allows someone to have an influence over other people. My personal preference is to devote a lot more time and attention to blogging than social media, although I recognize that for a lot of people it’s the reverse. Twitter may be an easier way to reach more people, but I’m more impacted by reading blog posts than quick Twitter posts and so that’s the kind of content I’d rather give my readers as well.
I’m always a bit dubious about follower numbers alone, in part because of what I’ve noticed as my own follower numbers have grown. Of the new followers that I get in a month, I would say that less than 10% ever actually look at my blog, and fewer than that end up actually engaging. So in terms of actual reach/influence, I could end up being on par with someone who’s got far fewer followers than I have.
What probably matters the most is how we ourselves are influenced by our engagement in the blogging community or whatever platform it may be that we choose to focus on. Many of us come on here with a goal to spread our message to others, but from what I’ve heard other bloggers mention and what I’ve experienced directly, it’s the back and forth in messaging that’s the most meaningful.
So, what makes a mental health influencer? I still don’t really know, but my vote is for anyone who’s interactive in the online mental health community. And I’m looking at all of you fabulous people out there.