I wanted to touch on a topic today that everyone and their dog seems to have an opinion on at the moment. ‘Influencers’. I don’t know about you but the word is starting to make me cringe a little. It’s now a billion-dollar industry and despite the handful of articles suggesting the contrary, it’s definitely here to stay. Put simply, it has grouped together anyone with a large social media following and stuck this label on them. It has become a toxic topic and anyone who works (even as a hobby) as a blogger, vlogger or content creator will have some kind of an opinion on it.
While an influencer in marketing terms is defined as “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media” it really diminishes the work of people that started this before anything came from it as a hobby. The negative attention of influencer culture stems from a new awareness of the likes of Love Island star’s not disclosing paid partnerships or the Kardashian sisters plugging damaging health messages by promoting detox tea diets, when in fact they spend a hell of a lot of money on personal training and other weight loss methods. This new consciousness of influencer marketing completely ignores those that have always worked with integrity and authenticity for 10+ years in this field. Influencers were once people that used to simply call themselves bloggers/vloggers, creating their own content, often unpaid and from their bedrooms in their spare time, now they are anyone with a big number next to their profile picture, earning a few thousand for the sake of an Instagram story.
The new ASA guidelines, Fyre Festival documentary and BBC Panorama Million Pound Selfie have all shed a light on influencer culture and in particular, has highlighted the controversy surrounding the subject, leaving many people who have put a lot of hard work into what they do feeling frustrated and annoyed that they are being associated with these opinions. While I do not class myself as an influencer with only 2k followers on Instagram, (don’t get me wrong I love my little community of followers!) I can understand the frustration that other content creators feel. I occasionally get asked if I would like to collaborate with a brand, attend an event or sometimes receive gifted items and you can’t help but feel that these documentaries, news articles and insane new guidelines are degrading you and the other people in your blogger community. Most of us started our blogs/channels to satisfy our need to create something, write about something or just to have a place to put that all together. It’s infuriating when a group of people come along and put you down about it, whether it’s your hobby, full-time career, or a new venture it’s not nice to have people forming opinions about what you do based on the actions of social media influencers that are new on the scene and doing it all wrong. Not cool guys…
Anyway, I have been doing a lot of research into this topic (for academic purposes) so I’m trying not to make this blog post sound too much like an essay… Although I have now realised I’m rambling and not too sure where I’m now going with it.
I guess my point is, social media is changing. Long gone are the days where it was all for shits n giggles, it’s now a huge huge platform for marketers and we’re not too happy about it. For example, Jameela Jamil calling out influencers who promote detox diets, exposing users that have been buying fake followers and likes, and the ridiculously confusing ASA disclosure guidelines, we’ve all had enough of it. It’s now up to marketers to use this platform wisely and maybe (Mark Zuckerburg I hope you’re reading this) for the CEO’s to actually listen to their users (please stop filtering IGTV videos into our feeds pls x x). Macro influencers have gotten away with not disclosing paid work for long enough, its now time for influencers to be creating meaningful relationships with their followers and authentically promoting products they believe in or have actually used (Kardashian’s I’m looking at you). Otherwise, it’s going to drive social media into the ground (ok a bit dramatic but honestly, I think that’s just the way its gonna go, which I mean isn’t great for me as I work in social media…).
Okay, I think I’ll end it here because I’ve realised how many brackets I’ve used in this post which is basically me just talking to myself. So, before I really go off on one and start whipping out my stats, I’ll stop myself! I’m hoping to start a little bit of a discussion – open to all opinions, so what are your thoughts on this? Do you think influencer marketing is going to have to adapt? What changes do you think we will see over the next five years?
Let me know in the comments!
(Before I receive abuse for saying any of this, it’s my honest opinion of how I see the marketing landscape going. I still fully support large bloggers/vloggers that play by the rules and have always disclosed their content, it’s the quick fame, new to the scene, reality TV ones I’m really talking about…)