In many ways, influencers are absolutely the new political players. Politicians on both sides of the political aisle are increasingly turning to social media influencers and even paying them to help shape political discourse, even on small scales.
Many Americans have become distrustful of mainstream media sources and are increasingly turning to social media to find voices they trust. People are therefore more likely to listen to an influencer whom they have intentionally followed because of shared interests than they are to an impersonal news broadcaster.
Let's imagine a small-scale social media influencer with 10,000 followers who has branded herself as a preschool mom with ideas for creative and engaging activities for young children. Moms follow her because they love her vision, her aesthetic, and her passion for young children. Imagine that she suddenly inserts a post about the importance of having preschoolers wear masks in public. Her voice is likely to matter to these 10,000 moms much more than a random politician telling these moms the same thing.
Increasingly, politicians are reaching out to these small-scale influencers to deliver messages, and they are often paying them for doing so (see article linked below). Sometimes these influencers directly endorse politicians, and sometimes they just publicly support the ideas of particular candidates or parties.
These small-scale influencers are trusted by their intimate audiences in ways that even celebrity endorsements cannot accomplish. They serve very specific niches and very "targetable audiences" who all share some common trait, such as age, passions, location, gender, and more. Thus, it becomes quite easy to target particular groups to influence public opinion. Although it is done on a small scale, when replicated over and over to various target groups, the impact has great potential.
Many Americans are weary of the typical political scene, which is divisive and leaves everyone feeling less connected. Thus, influencers have incredible impact because their very purpose is to connect people with common interests and goals, thereby solidifying a sense of unity and solidarity.