Like many of you, last Friday, while taking shelter as Storm Eunice battered the UK, I found myself gripped to my laptop screen as I watched countless jumbo jets make furtive and fraught attempts to land several hundred tonnes of steel safely in gale force winds. I was able to do this thanks to the efforts of Big Jet TV’s very own Jerry Dyer, as he narrated several hours of flights with a giddy thrill and abandon not seen outside of Martin Tyler commentary for Aguero’s last minute winner at the Etihad in 2012.

 

His effervescent charisma and natural enthusiasm for the subject at hand shone through, as he streamed a variety of aircraft landing in treacherous 70 mph winds, punctuated with a blokey bonhomie and a general bemusement at the sudden interest in his channel.

 

At its height, his videos reached over 200,000 viewers, and we were treated to Jerry’s nonplussed responses to the increasing media requests and celebrity mentions on Twitter, in addition to his cries of encouragement to the under-pressure pilots.

 

Eunice really did turn out to be a perfect storm for the popularity of Big Jet TV; a country forced back inside once again, tired of the misery of the 24-hour news cycle, fatigued by a lack of integrity in our public figures, seeking communal joy after two years of solitude. What we needed was Jerry bellowing “GO ON SON” at the pilot of an All-Nippon Airways flight.

 

With Big Jet TV registering viewing figures for which some satellite channels would kill, it reminded me of another unlikely influencer, in the form of “Francis Bourgeois”. Francis, or Luke to his parents, became a doyenne of TikTok through his series of trainspotting videos. Trainspotting, for the uninitiated, is a deeply uncool pursuit that has been a longstanding cultural punchline. Trainspotters are derided as a matter of course, and certainly would be the last subculture one would expect to discover a social media superstar.

 

However, Francis, with his infectious enthusiasm and eccentric charm has become one of the fastest rising and most unlikely influencers. Francis now has recorded videos with members of the Jonas Brothers, appeared in a The North Face x Gucci campaign and has subsequently signed with YMU Group talent agency, home to as disparate a group of celebrities as Gary Barlow and Claudia Winkleman. It’s a long way from standing on a windswept flyover waving at the 12:20 to Bristol Parkway.

 

His impact is a lot more than mere pop culture status, though. Since 2021, Google searches for “steam train experiences” have increased by 110%, with many industry experts attributing this to his incredible rise in popularity. Quite an impact for a trainspotter.

 

So, what is it about these two men with extraordinarily niche pastimes that has caused the nation to take them to their collective heart? The answer is, quite simply, authenticity.

 

Their genuine zeal for the subject at hand, no matter how indifferent the public are toward them usually, allowed us into their world and connected with us in an entirely uncynical way. With the rise of “virtual influencers” such as Lil Miquela and Lu do Magulu, the question of authenticity in the world of influencers has become a pertinent one.

 

Why would people take the endorsement of a virtual influencer seriously if we know the sole reason they are endorsing the product is because a brand manager programmed them to do so? (a more cynical person than I might suggest that this is also the case for innumerate other influencers)?

 

When we undertake an influencer mapping project here at Madano, we seek to not only identify those individuals who have a standing in the specific community to be able to influence, but those who are credible. Having a platform from which to shape debate is one thing, but without the authority to ensure your audience takes your views seriously is entirely another. So while we can’t all be a Jerry Dyer or Francis Bourgeois, we can certainly take inspiration from their authenticity.

 

To better understand online influence and how it impacts your organisation, please get in touch with Ben or one of our expert digital team at [email protected]

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