Do you know the 21st century definition of "influencer"? I mean those (presumably young) people who have so many followers on social media that companies pay them to tout their products.
Hotels and resorts invite them, free of charge, to come visit - with all the frills. Restaurants are happy to indulge their every appetite, at no cost. Companies send them products by the truckload.
"Just hashtag us when you post," they say. And boom, the company or resort or restaurant gets a bump in "likes" on their Facebook page, hearts on their Instagram, tweets to their Twitter. And maybe, just maybe, visits and purchases, which translates to real, honest-to-goodness revenue.
The goal is to expose the brand to new and wider audiences, exponentially.
The Digital Marketing Institute defines a social media influencer as "a user who has established credibility in a specific industry, has access to a huge audience and can persuade others to act, based on their recommendations."
Top Instagram influencers are known for their make-up application videos, lifestyle memes, cooking tips, fitness videos and such. Then there's Daily Dose, a motivational Instagram account with 1.5 million followers, and a reach of 200 million (from following followers). That's a lot of influencing.
We might think influencers are celebrities or entrepreneurs, but not necessarily. One could be an unemployed blogger, such as Girl With No Job - otherwise known as Claudia Oshry, who has 2.3 million followers, and a "high involvement rate," which is more valuable to a brand, she says.
Some in the know estimate that she makes six figures a year. She won't say.
A friend in PR tells me these influencers are successful because "their followers want THEIR life." Those 2.3 million people want to party, dance, travel, have fun, live large, and do it all for free. Not a bad life, is it? I beg to differ.
Let me tell you about some real-life influencers.
My mother was an amazing influencer. Because of her, I learned how to cook, sew, mind my manners, type, and say "please" and "thank you," among other life lessons.
My dad was another top influencer. He showed me the way to independence by teaching me to drive a stick shift, change a tire, and plan quality time for family.
My parents were influencers in their community by their actions - always doing the right thing, helping others, being always grateful for even the small blessings.
Then there is my big brother, who is 10 years older than I. He influenced my education by teaching me to read, ride a bike, and throw a football. He was the first one in our family to graduate college. I was the second.
Teachers have been important influencers as well. I was heavily influenced in the kindness department by Mrs. Betty Nick, my Sunday school teacher at age 6. My fourth grade teacher, Tina Pearo, is still a good friend - and was a great influencer in leadership and literature.
Dr. Henry Price had perhaps the most influence on my education and my entire career. He was the one who awakened in me the joy of copy editing in a journalism class more than 40 years ago.
More recent influencers include my husband, who influenced me to become a vegetarian, to love animals, and to exercise my desire to create art - always showing unconditional love.
My sons have influenced me to learn and accept new ways of doing things. They keep me young and inquisitive.
None of these influencers in my life has a million followers, but their influence is profound anyway. I am indebted to them all.
Who are the influencers in your life?