Every year, TIME magazine releases its annual ranking of the 100 most influential people. But today we have all become influencers, each one potentially an opinion leader.
We live in an interconnected world, based on the exchange and sharing of opinions in a kind of multi-directional, totally anarchic traffic in which the latest IPCC report and the news item on the corner of the street rub shoulders as equals (when it is not the corner of the street that prevails). Everyone has the power to express themselves, alone or in a group, and conversely to consult and therefore be influenced by others. Some people call this the "counter-power" of the consumer, as if to say that it was necessary to be able to oppose influencers presented and experienced as manipulators.
In that world, in those people (that is us), listen more to your peers than the governing or institutional bodies. It is the dual effect of mistrust of authorities of all kinds (caught in a lack of competence, in denial of reality and in flagrant individualism) and the technical possibilities of social networks that this peer or horizontal communication has developed. One of the most blatant illustrations of this peer trust in recent years was the H1N1 flu. When the pandemic broke out, the general public consulted their friends or other parents of schoolchildren more than doctors or, even less, the Ministry of Health to find out whether they should be vaccinated. We now listen more to other consumers than to the brand when choosing a car, a washing machine or a hotel, we have more of a reflex to question Google than our teacher, a medical website than a health professional. We live in a world where a micro-trottoir of 5 people influences us more than a scientific survey conducted over many months. The Internet and social networks have not invented anything, but they have considerably amplified our counter discussions and made each of us opinion makers, universal experts with opinions on everything ... well, as Coluche used to say, "especially opinions".
Communication needs a cultural revolution
In this world, the official authority is no longer the sole holder of information, because its very 'authority' is often questioned. In terms of communication, we can consider that what the brand says about itself is often less important than what the public says about the brand. Potentially receptive audiences are changing; they are now both receivers and transmitters, and above all they are more informed and demanding; they are even often said to be 'over-informed', as if they were too informed. Listening to each client, consumer, user, constituent and voter to detect weak signals, some of which will become the trends and projects of tomorrow.
This is why it is particularly important to move away from top-down, unidirectional, one-way communication systems. These systems are no longer credible (have they ever been?), and a real cultural revolution must take place, that of a communication that must move from making-values to making-knowledge, from discourse to action, from monologue to dialogue, from verticality to horizontality. The idealising, boastful prism has passed. Today, the 'courage' of the new way of communicating consists in considering that the weaknesses assumed will reinforce the credibility of the assets, when the weaknesses concealed - but decoded by all - reduce the assets to nothing. Sincere rather than 'transparent' communication.
A balance must then be found between influencers in need of regaining respected and expected leadership (in the political as well as the economic world) and populations that are now more willing to listen to their peers than their fathers. After the "watered down", beware of the influenced influencer, who by the same token loses his influence (a formula that sounds like a Raffarinade, which I accept!), and of a public opinion that, by dint of questioning everything, no longer trusts anyone except the first demagogue and populist to come along.