What Forbes’ ‘Top Influencers’ Can Teach Us About Keeping An Open Mind

Author: Deborah Sexton       

When it comes to successful businesspeople and companies, Forbes has no shortage of lists.  Each year, the publisher releases the “World’s Most Powerful People,” “World’s Billionaires,” “World’s Most Innovative Companies,” “Most Valuable Brands,” “America’s Best Employers,” and many more. These compilations are often interesting in terms of not only who makes the cut, but why.

And now Forbes has a brand-new list, “Top Influencers,” featuring the people who are making a fortune off of social media. According to the media company, those named to the list boast 250 million social-media followers between them. Some can make as much as $300,000 per YouTube video, and others have Instagram audiences larger than New York City’s population. It’s important to note that only people who built empires off the internet from the ground up were considered — not the already-established celebrities who later attracted a large social-media following.

Making an appearance on the inaugural list are uber-popular British beauty vlogger Zoe Sugg; Grace Bonney, whose DIY interiors blog “Design*Sponge” led the maker trend; and Kayla Itsines, whose “Sweat with Kayla” workout app generated $17 mil-lion in 2016. The honorees skew female and young — Itsines is just 25 and Sugg is 27. (You can find the complete listing at convn.org/forbes-influencers.)

To me, the most interesting part about this is not who’s on the list, but the fact that Forbes now has such a list at all. Who would have thought five or 10 years ago that a mom with a blog named “Tatertots & Jello” would be featured in Forbes? (No disrespect to Jennifer Hadfield, who recently entered into a sponsorship agreement with Nestle and launched her own line of scrapbooking supplies sold at Hobby Lobby.)

Not too long ago, there were many who discounted the influence of social media. “Anyone can launch a blog or post a YouTube video,” they said. Or, “It’s only social, not a place to conduct business.” But we now know this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many industrious individuals have found a way to use social media to launch multimillion-dollar empires. And those people are not only raking in the cash, they are enjoying tremendous influence when it comes to trends and ways of doing business.

It’s a telling case for being open to new ideas and new ways of engaging with your stakeholders. What seems like a threat or an out-there concept today (hello, self-driving cars) just may be the next big thing.

Now that doesn’t mean that those of us in the business-events industry need to instantly jump on the bandwagon with every new social-media platform, app, or technology that pops up — and you couldn’t possibly anyway. But there is something to be said for keeping an open mind and experimenting with new ways to engage with your attendees. Who knows? Perhaps Forbes’ next list will be “Game-Changing Face2Face Business Events,” and your event may be on there. 


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