What Can a Media Influencer Do to the FCC or Amazon?

Looks like The FCC has come down with a case of influencer-enza earlier this week. After media influencer John Oliver called for viewers to post comments on the FCC.gov site to protest proposed (bad) changes to the Internet, the site crashed, came back up, and crashed again. Twenty-two-thousand comments were posted over two days this week, with a total of 64,000 comments.  The flood probably happened because of Oliver, and probably also because of a similar call to action on reddit. (Redditors call this the ‘hug of death,’ when so many of them visit a site that the site goes down.)

Louder voices online.

Amazon also felt the power of an influencer. The company is in the hot seat because of a bad decision to drop the hammer on Hachette, one of its publishers. There’s a contract dispute going on between the two companies, and Amazon is applying pressure by slowing shipments of Hachette titles, making them harder to locate on the site, and resorting to other hardball tactics.

Amazon’s bad behavior is working.

Sales of Hachette titles have slowed on Amazon. There’s also a backlash brewing among popular authors. The tactics are giving a black eye to the Amazon brand. I have to think twice about doing business with them because I don’t like what they stand for.

Unfortunately for Amazon, Hachette publishes books by Stephen Colbert. Colbert called out Amazon on his show this week, and he Tweeted his displeasure with Amazon to his six million followers. A Hachette book he promoted on the air quickly went to a number one seller at Powell’s Bookstore in Oregon. Amazon is feeling the heat, I think, and now millions of people are evaluating their relationship with the company because of its business practices.

Culture is visible from the inside out.

Do we need any more proof that influencers can push the needle? Not really. But it’s always worth reminding ourselves how powerful the endorsement or statement of an influencer can be. Kickstarter campaigns I’ve advised on easily went over the top, past their funding goals, when we were able to connect up with influencers in the appropriate space – be it fashion, animation, or a hometown paper. Do we need any more proof that the way a company does business, its motivations and tactics, matter more than ever? Not really. The culture you build for your company speaks loudly now.

If you’re thinking about enlisting an influencer to help you, it helps to pick one who is funny, but it’s even more important to pick one who shows up. Influence is not built quickly. Colbert has been on the air for years now, and while John Oliver’s show is new on HBO, he’s also a familiar comedy face. The two also possess the unique combination of funny + credibility. How many other comedians can you think of who are like that? Not many. If Larry, Moe or Curly told me to do something, I wouldn’t do it.