Facebook agency chief: Let’s stop using the term influencer for ‘Z-list celebrities’

Facebook Asia-Pacific’s head of agency has called for social media influencers to stop using the descriptor unless they can “prove” they have actually influenced something.

Neil Stewart argued that the term “influencer” was sometimes misleading when used for people on social media who just had “some friends and followers”. He suggested “Z-list celebrities” was often a more appropriate description.

Neil Stewart: ‘I think we could almost sue them for using a false or misleading description.’

Speaking during a session on influencers at the Mumbrella Asia’s Travel Marketing Summit in Singapore, the former chief executive officer of Maxus Asia-Pacific said: “Can I just ask that we don’t keep using the word ‘influencer’. Because there’s an assumption that they have influence.

“To be an influencer, you must have influenced something. I don’t necessarily think that’s true for a lot of influencers. There are plenty of ‘influencers’ who have friends, followers; they have a blog and people who see their content. But until you can prove that they have ‘influenced’ – so changed behaviour, an attitude or an action – I think we could almost sue them for using a false or misleading description.”

During the lively discussion, Stewart challenged his panel’s moderator, influencer Mar Pages, to “put her hand up and say [she has] influenced”. Pages, who has 22,000 followers on Instagram, rebutted him, saying: “In certain areas yes I can [say I have influenced] because I have the numbers to prove it.

“But I agree; there are a lot of of brands who will just be happy with reach on Instagram. [The influencer] doesn’t have a blog so the only thing [the brand] is getting is awareness. If you have a large following and you put some money into advertising so [the post] goes further, then yes you will get your objective. Is that influencing other people? Well yes in the discovery phase. I don’t book trips on Instagram, but I save a lot of posts for discovery.”

Upon being asked by Pages what term he would prefer to use instead, Stewart quipped: “You have some friends and followers. Z-list celebrities.”

Mar Pages: “In certain cases I can say I have influence because I have the numbers to prove it.”

“I think content creators is a better word,” countered Pages. “When brands work with you, it’s because you have reach and because you can create good content. I agree it’s a flawed word. Because often the reaction is…”

To which Stewart interjected: “Prove it.”

Rounding off her argument, Pages added: “I know I have influence in some areas because I know how many people read my posts and how many click. Some people call themselves influencers and they might not know. It’s an industry that’s nascent so a lot of these things are picked up by people.”


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