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Influencer or Grunt?

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Community Support
February 28, 2017
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In 2016 we had the rise of the term “Influencer,” it’s a status symbol to be an influencer to some, but it all left me wondering if everyone is out to get social-media-famous then who is doing all the work and making a difference? What drove me to ponder this thought? Recently I watched an amazing documentary on Pvt Tony Vaccaro a WW2 veteran and infantryman. Mr. Vaccaro was on the front line in France, Belgium, and Germany. He survived the Battle of the Bulge and many other attacks.


Before you say, “Yay, Eric can watch TV,” let me explain what made this story truly mind blowing. Mr. Vaccaro was drafted to go fight, and he wanted to be a combat photographer, but was “too young.” His response was great, “Old enough to pull a trigger but not old enough to snap a photo.” So what did Tony do? Well, it was 1943, so he didn’t cry or protest. He went out and purchased a $47.00 Argus C3, a low-priced rangefinder camera, For the next 272 days he would both fight with the 83rd Infantry Division and take roughly 8,000 photographs of the war.

What does this have to do with “Influencers?” Tony was an infantryman, a grunt, and ground pounder (a.k.a. 0311 or 11Bravo for my Army minded friends). Tony’s job was to take lives, not pictures. From the Civil War to Vietnam photographers staged many of the photos we have as records. Tony took 8,000 photos during the war. Never once did he say, “Hey, look at me.” So why was Tony able to capture these amazing photos while other photographers of his time couldn’t get anywhere near these troops? Why are photographers who take pictures of our wounded and dying warriors getting their asses whooped, even today?


The answer jumped at me; Tony built trust with his fellow warriors. He wasn’t there to become famous or get rich. Tony just wanted to stay alive in a part of the world that death happened every hour.

So jump ahead to today. Everywhere you look on social media is some expert telling you how great they are and why they should constantly talk about themselves (a.k.a. self-promotion). They talk about FOMO and create fancy hashtags that make them appear to care about others. In the end, it’s all a show, these people want to see their names in lights. These folks are willing to lose everything to speak for free at a conference all in the name of “hustle.”[caption id="attachment_10539" align="aligncenter" width="960"]


(Ryan O'Donnell USMC, Michael J. Penney USMC, Lucas Geboo USMC )[/caption]I will be the first person to preach about hard work. I’ve stood on a white line before in hopes of getting picked to work that day. I’ve never wanted to be famous, never wanted my name in lights. I’m a grunt. Nobody cares about my socks, or being human-to-human or needing me to say “Real Talk” after I say something earth-shattering about myself. An influencer is someone who lets their actions speak to their influence. The top sales people aren’t running around slapping #socialselling on every social media message or attending twitter chats. What are they doing? Closing deals and going home. Same thing goes for Chief Marketing Officers. They don’t go around slapping #CMO on everything. They focus on the company goals and hitting KPI’s -- not making top 25 lists.[caption id="attachment_10536" align="aligncenter" width="781"]


(Jas Boothe US Army, Szu-Moy Toves USAF, Lee Kuxhaus USAF)[/caption]There is nothing wrong with being a grunt. Not everyone can be a SEAL or Marine Recon or an Army Ranger. All these folks have one thing in common, they will never put fame before a mission. We need to be more focused on helping brands and customers with marketing and less time on being famous on social media.

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