Influencers in world conflicts

Influencers in new roles
Photo of woman: Story Blocks, photo of helmet and composite by author.

Social Media influencers are expanding outside their traditional role as product and service ambassadors and evangelists and being drawn into war and conflict.

Already a force on their own, spending on influencers in the United States is forecast to reach 3.7 billion dollars in 2021  But they are also beginning to play a role in major conflicts such as the current war in Ukraine and other regions.

White House briefings

For example, top White House and National Security Council staffers held a briefing in March with about 30 influential social media influencers who follow and report on the conflict, CBS news reported. Briefings are usually reserved for national reporters from major news outlets. But of course, Russia is heavily involved with their own influencers paying TikTok creators to produce pro-Kremlin propaganda content.

The reason, if you want to reach young people, the fact is teens and other young people prefer to get their news from social media. Consumption of TikTok content increased from 800,000 in 2020 to 3.9 million in 2022 the BBC reported in July.

Instagram first news source

Instagram has emerged as the most popular news source among younger people – used by 29% of teens in 2022 – with TikTok and YouTube close behind.

In Ukraine, over 76% of all Ukrainians use social media to keep up to date on the war based on a survey in May 2022 a conducted by the Ukrainian NGO OporaTelegram, YouTube, and Facebook —were the most popular sources of news in the country.

Influencers have always existed, even if they were called something else.

There have always been influencers

Modern news since World War II and before, relied on personalities to deliver the news because of the influence they could have on an audience.

And they could impact real politics. 

Edward R. Murrow a prominent journalist in the early 50’s took down US Senator Joe McCarthy after his rampage destroyed many lives looking for communist sympathizers and “Enemies within” the government.

Scud Studs

Nor was “sex appeal” ignored. For example, two very capable journalist became known as Scud Studs, a Canadian and a Brit, for their ability to report live while pointing out incoming Iraqi scud missiles in the sky.

Social Media cut the barriers to technology that in the past enforced a vetting process.

Technology was too expensive

In the pre-social media world, technology was so expensive it took millions of dollars every year to put together a national broadcast.  It meant they spent time vetting their few public faces – or influencers – to secure their investment.

Now, there is no real technological barrier. All you need is a smart phone and data access and an audience.  And how you got your audience is sometimes less important than the size and demographics of your audience.

Influencers are a go to source

Influencers with Ukrainian ties are often a go-to source for war updates. Once travel blogging, crypto advice, and anime cosplay, many influencers have switched over to frontline reports.

For example, Kristina Korban’s TikTok – chronicles the first attacks on Kiev. Known as Money Honey because she focused on finance, she documented her reaction from her house.

Nevertheless, some influencers are out of their depths and easily manipulated.

Syria is considered an international pariah because of its civil war.  In the past, it offered access to independent journalists as reported by the Washington Post who have written critical articles on the country.

Travel influencers tone deaf to realities

Not happy with results, the Syrians created travel junkets for travel influencers who appear unaware or choose to ignore the realities of Syria. After 11 years of war, the Syrian refugee crisis remains the world’s largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. But travel influencers sometimes don’t even mention the context of the country they are in.

And sometimes it’s even in bad taste. In one YouTube video, English vlogger Benjamin Rich even used abandoned homes as a backdrop to sell Surfshark subscriptions

So how do you feel about influencers who step outside the realms of product and services reviews?  Is it usually out of their depth or do they add elements and insight you wouldn’t expect?



Same Photo

Influencers in a new world

Social Media influencers are expanding outside their traditional role as product and service ambassadors and evangelists and being drawn into war and conflict.

But they are also beginning to play a role in major conflicts such as the current war in Ukraine and other regions.

Is it a wise move?


Same Photo

Influencers in a new world. Social Media influencers are expanding outside their traditional role and are being drawn into war and conflict.

#kiev #europe #ukraine #usa #russia #influencers

Like does not mean like!

When I like you doesn't mean I like you - Facebook Likes Photo
Photo from Storyblocks, Facebook Logo and composite by author.

I am a photographer/videographer.

While I do professional shoots, I post my more polished photos on Facebook groups that focus on photography.

I admit it is at times about showing off to friends and others. And I am quite happy when it gets lots of likes or loves. It tends to validate my feelings about the photo.

As a general plan to expand my audience, I usually look at who has “liked” it. If there is a person not on my friends list and they have “liked” photos more than two or three times, I will usually send them friend request assuming they may like to see more photos in the future.

But this time, the response was quick.

“Why did you send me a friend’s request?”

All I could think of was that she suspected I was some kind of troll. So I explained, she liked a series of my photos which prompted the friend request.

“Well, just because I ‘liked’ them, doesn’t mean I liked them LOL ,” she replied in messenger.

That was a revelation!

It became clear, Social Media listening has to be seen as more than just counting. This was just one case, What would it be like with a large data set. It must be difficult to really understand the data

Listening for your brand may tell you a lot of things, but it’s dependent on your ability to interpret and parse the data.

First, you are constantly dealing with large amounts of data that may not be particularly relevant.

Think Apple.

With Apple computers, you have to sift through tons of data that may have nothing to do with the computer company. Even my own company, which is hardly a national brand gets more than 18 thousand results on Google, where most listings have very little to do with what I do.

Added to this, is this really your audience?

Are you sure they are active on Social Media? Are you just measuring a minor subset of people who use the product?

The Internet is a noisy place, so searching by keyword sets may sound like a good step to drill down to the data you need but your search terms may contain bias related to ethnicity, gender or product use.

Good may mean bad and bad may mean good

“Your product is really sick “ will be heard differently with different audiences.

Moreover, think about how your searches would be different for Coke, bubble wrap and Frisbees if you were designing social media listening for a cure to morphine addiction (Coke). wall paper (bubble wrap) and pie containers (Frisbees) the original purposes for these products.

Are you really looking at your product in the way it is used or perceived by your audience.

Add to this, you may have less and less access to data as more people use off-line discussion apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp or others.

Determining sentiment

In addition, it is really hard to determine general sentiment toward a brand because it’s a product of emotion. People have “feelings” about brands often based on a longer term interaction with it. It may not be as easy to measure

Artificial Intelligence (AI) maybe considered an answer but AI famously fails at learning common sense. It can totally destroy you at a game of chess because it calculates all the different moves, but where there is ambiguity it falls apart. Researchers have designed questions that are completely confusing to AI because it takes “common sense” to understand, not just an algorithm.

Cheeseburger stabbings and AI

A headline that says “cheeseburger stabbings” will confuse AI because it’s unlikely a cheeseburger attacked another cheeseburger. Common sense would say it is about a stabbing in a cheeseburger fast food restaurant.

Listening for your brand may tell you a lot of things, but it’s dependent on your ability to interpret and parse the data. Not always an easy task.

So how do you measure conversation? First determine, how much effort really goes into engagement. A simple “like” may have no other value than “I saw it” But a few lines that are more heart felt will have more meaning.

As for the person who liked but didn’t necessary like my photos – “Hmph”



What is Sentiment in Marketing?

11 Famous Products That Were Originally Intended for a Completely Different Purpose

Can Computers Learn Common Sense? | The New Yorker

AI still doesn’t have the common sense to understand human language


Same Photo

Not all likes are really likes.

Social Media listening has to be seen as more than just counting. It makes it difficult to really understand the data.



Not all likes are really likes. Social Media listening has to be seen as more than just counting. #facebookmarketing #socialmediamarketing #digitalmarketing #instagrammarketing

Married to a beast and other virtual world relationships.

Virtual Relationships
Source: Stock images from Composite by author.

The image remains in my head.

The location was perfect for an outdoor wedding.  The trees were tall robust maples.  The venue was decorated in white and red and Chinese candles floated above the couple.

The groom was a gorilla, or some similar species.  He had his war helmet on, three arrows attached to his back and a shield in his left hand.

The bride was a fae, or a small blonde elf with pointed ears and a long white dress and a bouquet of flowers. She floated up and down while hearts floated out from her.  She was no bigger than the groom’s hairy hands.

The minister was a turtle.

The audience, a wide selection of colored creatures, sat and watched general chat as the minister conducted the wedding and the bride and groom proclaimed their love for each other.

I thought it was an interesting role play in this virtual world.  But the groom corrected me, as I remember him saying …

                “Hey Bro… It’s real.  Not role play at all.  I love her.”

I was rather puzzled at first and then thought, “you must know her in real life then?”

                “No, I don’t”

                “Do you know her name?


                “You have talked in voice online?”


                “You know where she lives?”

                “No, but I know her time zone.”

                “… and how long have you been together?”

                “About two years.”

It puzzled me how anyone could be in a relationship without knowing something about each other.

I admit, I grew up in a time when “online” meant your clothes were drying outside and friendships were face to face. You generally knew their age, their gender, their voice.  You could not walk past them without saying hello.

Not so much with virtual friends.  You may never know their name, gender nor age.   

There is always someone behind the keyboard.

Yet they are real, in the sense there is somewhere, someone behind a keyboard typing.  But you must form an opinion about a friendship/relationship based on nothing more than clever texting.

Nevertheless, virtual friendships and relationships is a roaring business.

In virtual worlds such as Second Life, the wedding planning business is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  There are no less than 17 companies providing wedding planner services. (1)

There is a world of virtual relationships.

There are whole range of virtual worlds, where avatars form relationships, marry, have families and friendships that are not rooted in the real world. They may be an avatar, they will tell you, but their feelings are real.

A sociology professor once instilled in me the idea that when there is only one person doing something rather odd, it may be an aberration.  When thousands are doing it, it is filling a need.  And it’s a lazy mind that will moralize about it because they want to preserve their narrative of the world.  But a true social scientist would look for the underlying reasons for it and the disruptions it creates.

Virtual relationships and friendships can be positive.

While the general attitude toward virtual friendships is often negative and tied to stories of predators and children, there are benefits that are not usually reported.

It would explain why “55% of young people admitted to having had a virtual relationship.”(2) They must be getting something from it.

So what are the benefits?

First there is less “gating.” Gating is the tendency of humans to select friends and relationships by physical qualities and put up a gate in front of everyone else. it can be an unrecognized biase about age, gender, race, looks, fashion and other areas. Therefore, in a virtual world, there is just broader acceptance because gating is limited. (3)

Quicker to reveal deeper thoughts.

Online, people are quicker to reveal deeper issues and emotions because they are not identifiable. It’s called the “stranger on the train phenomena.” You are sometimes more willing to quickly reveal your more inner thoughts if you feel you will never meet that person again. You don’t feel the need to create a protective wall that you might have to defend at some later date. (4) It’s not that much different if you exist under a handle or as an avatar and noone knows who you are.

With limited gating, more meaningful self-disclosure online can have a positive effect on people’s offline relationships. As they can create an online identity that is appreciated by others, it enhances their overall self-image and increases the quality of their face-to-face relationships as well. (5)

Ability to explore things about themselves.

There are also other positive aspects, for example, for those who may be exploring their own sexuality in a way that is not yet disclosed to family and friends.

But these relationships are still person to person. Somewhere two people are talking to each other via a computer and a platform that disguise them.

And what about person to machine relationships?

Japan has a romance video game subculture where people will date a truly fictional character.

Relationships with machines?

“In Japan, the phenomenon of developing romantic feelings and strong attachment towards a character is sufficiently common that it has its own label (Moe, 萌え). Importantly, this emotion is frequently experienced with comics, animated characters, and video games. This points to the scope of romantic anthropomorphism extending well-beyond video games and into other domains containing virtual agents.” (6)

This may be particular to Japan because there is a significant reduction in the number of women wanting to marry because of stricter codes of conformity that come with marriage.

” … they are shying away from marriage because they enjoy their freedom, have fulfilling careers and do not want the burdens of the traditional housewife, such as household chores, raising children and looking after elderly parents.” (7)

So how do you feel about this? 

I have online friends either through games or bulletin boards.  And I value those friendships as I would any friendship.

Usually, they are based on a specific type of interaction or topic, but nevertheless they have a sense of being real.  I may not know who they are but some I have “known’ for years.

Do you have virtual friends as well?


Virtual Worlds

Second Life
World of Warcraft
The Sandbox



Use the same photo.

Married to a beast and other virtual world relationships.

Can you be true friends with someone you don’t know, can’t see and never have had physical contact?




Use the same photo.

Married to a beast and other virtual world relationships. “55% of young people admitted to having had a virtual relationship.”

 #virtualconnection #connect #immersive #virtualcommunity #virtually #virtualfriends

Is your baby ugly?

Creative projects are the artist's baby.
Source: Photo and graphic from Composite by author.

Well, you didn’t hear it from me nor is it likely you will hear it from anyone else you know.

Who wants to hurt feelings when “how cute” will go a long way to ensure continued dinner invites for years to come? 

It’s a similar situation when you try to get an honest assessment about a creative project.

A creative project is a labour of love.

A creative project is often a labour love that gives birth to a work of art. Whether it’s a film, a painting, or a photograph, it’s the artist’s baby. It is rare that anyone you know will tell you your baby is ugly.

So how do you get a realistic assessment of your creation?

You need to be open to improving.

First you need to be open to it.  We sometimes just want to hear praise and try to ignore anything negative.   But if you want to learn and improve you need to be open to constructive criticism.

Assuming you don’t have the resources to create a focus group that will provide insight into an audience’s engagement, you need to devise simple ways to gather similar information. 

I will use my experience in video and film as an example.

People need to feel safe

First, you need to have questions that make people feel safe to express an opinion that will allow them to engage with you honestly. 

My favourite question is:  How long was the film you just watched?

If they respond with three minutes when the film was 10 minutes in length, they were engaged enough to lose track of time. If they say it felt like 30 minutes, it’s time to re-examine the project.

Another question is: What characters did you like and why?

There is no right or wrong answer, but the level of detail they retain reflects their engagement. For example, if they know the character’s name and their role in the story, they were engaged.   If they have questions about the character, it also means they were thinking as they watched – a true sign of engagement.

Another question: Are there parts to the story you didn’t understand?

If they had a problem in following a story or character than it’s a failure to communicate not their ability to comprehend. But it also shows a level of engagement.  If they didn’t care, they would have ignored the issue or just disengaged.

It’s about engagement.

The fundamental point is that you are learning not from whether they “like” the product but from their level of engagement.

This is one of the reasons I think thoughtful comments on posts are far more important than likes or short quotes like “great job.”

So, what other questions can be used to reveal engagement?

Can this idea be added to products, services or issues?  

Add them to the comments below, and I will comment on them.



Is your baby ugly.  It’s an artists’ dilemma. Who will really tell you your new piece of art, “your baby” is ugly?  First you need to have questions that make people feel safe and allow you to judge their level of engagement.  Link to Blog



Finding out if your baby, “your  creative project” is really ugly is a challenge for the best of artists.