Influencers. We see them all over nowadays. Some start out famous, like Kylie Jenner, and others simply have one viral post that explodes into an internet sensation.
The one thing that unites all influencers are trust. People value their authority as an expert in their brand (using the term "expert" liberally here).
While Catholic influencers may not have quite as many followers as some of the bigger names, it's nice to see people like Leah Darrow, Bishop Robert Barron, and the like using these platforms as a way to promote God instead of themselves.
Although they didn't have Instagram, I would argue that many of the saints were also Catholic influencers:
They focused on their niche. There's a lot of issues out there that the saints could have addressed: poverty, chastity, discrimination, education, family, the environment, tyranny. But if you notice, most of the saints focused on one or two issues that really impacted them and stuck to that. St. Elizabeth of Hungary fed the poor and took care of the sick. Padre Pio is best remembered for his skill as a confessor. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton focused on education. St. Paul was an evangelist. Imagine if Mother Teresa, in addition to addressing poverty, also advocated for chastity and NFP. While they are both important topics, Mother Teresa's very success is based on the fact that she was known for helping the poor. She didn't try to take on and solve every issue: she picked one and made the most difference she could there. What we can learn: Whatever your niche is, stay there! Don't try to take on every topic. That means if you're a Catholic food blogger, stick to Catholic things and food, not yoga. That means if you're a parish, don't try to be a rec center too. "Be who you are and be that well," to quote St. Francis de Sales
They knew about branding. What is the first thing you think of when I say "The Little Flower"? Verso l'alto? A bunch of tamed animals? Okay, while many of those labels were assigned to the saints after they became such, clearly, many of the saints had a particular brand image. Whether it's a stigmata, a phrase or quote, or a notable miracle, we can identify many of the saints simply by key distinguishers. What we can learn: As Catholic marketers, we need to have a few things that identify our ministry without even saying it's name. For Gloriam, for example, that might be our logo, our brand colors and fonts, or even our motto, "For His greater glory." All of these identifiers tell others a little bit about us, as well as act as visual and auditory clues that people begin to associate with our brand.
They knew how to grow a following. Every saint seems to have either a) started a religious order, b) had a group of people who followed him or her around all the time, or c) has a huge devoted fan base now that they've been canonized. I mean goodness, when it was announced that Fulton Sheen would become a blessed a few weeks ago, it was all that filled my news feed! Unlike today's social media influencers, however, these saints had a large following not because of their viral clap backs, but because of the lives they led: honest, patient, service-oriented, and filled with love for God. What we can learn: As Catholic marketers (and influencers), we have to realize that worldly fame is not our end goal. It doesn't matter (from both a marketing and faith perspective) how many followers you have on social media if they aren't active and engaged in your message. It's better to have one follower who will buy every book you write or attend every event you put on AND who you've convinced to love Jesus than 1,000 passive followers who only click like when it's a pretty picture and don't even know you're a Catholic influencer.
So the next time you're looking for an influencer to follow to up your Catholic marketing game, turn to the saints instead and see what you can learn!
~ For His greater glory ~