Before continuing on with this open letter about influencers, I want to ask you a favour. Put aside all your perceptions about influencers. Because this letter is about sharing to you the reality. It’s not all filters, paid selfies or being ‘young and beautiful’. In fact, we have a power of influence to educate and engage with our community.
What is an influencer?
A influencer is identified as a third party who shapes audience’s attitudes through the use of social media (Freberg, K., et al. 2010). Influencer is a holistic (though personally not great) term for the following:
- Industry experts and thought leaders
- Bloggers and content creators
- Micro influencers
Influencer Marketing Hub [accessed 24/10/2019]
Brands do love working with influencers as they provide authenticity and can relate to their niches, but they don’t wait for brands to come to them. It takes time to pitch, negotiate, draw up contracts and get the content right before it even goes on social media.
Referring back to ASA, influencers must declare if it is an advert straight away if they have received anything, and the business has had some say in the brief/final output. This means it has to be clear and that the audience do not need to click on anything to see if it is an advert – that also means clicking to see more comments. Failure to do so not only lands a fine, but can damage reputation – regardless of who you are or how many followers there are.
There’s also copyright and ownership. By not properly declaring where an image/source has come from, you could land yourself in some hot water. Think of it like plagiarism at University – you cannot take something and pass it off as your own.
That’s some of the legalities covered – what about the actual creation of the content?
It’s not a simple case of taking a nice selfie and posting it on the grid. As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous posts about creating content, you have to see what works. Not everyone will like that flatlay you worked hard on, or don’t engage with the OOTD shot that took half a day to get right. You have to see what your audience wants, and work with that.
But sometimes when an audience doesn’t like what you’re posting, it can turn nasty. Trolls and keyboard warriors affect the mental health and wellbeing of influencers. Let’s reflect back on this year’s news headlines for Love Island. The comments that these reality-stars-turned-influencers face, even after calls for more support, can damage their mental health. Not all influencers are famous, but we’re still human.
Plus there’s the editing, captions, scheduling so you’re not bombarding everyone’s feed, identify the time that works for you, managing SEO, deadlines, etc. etc. etc…
To put it bluntly, it could take up to a week or longer to prepare your content. No overnight successes unfortunately. Even if you were to go viral on one tweet – it does not always guarantee a regular audience engaging with your other content.
But there’s another aspect that we’re forgetting about here. It’s sharing a message to the community. Most influencers are not in it for the brand collaborations, but are in it to use a platform to speak about something they’re passionate about:
- Mental health
- Body positivity
- Life experiences
- And so much more
All of these relate to us in someway, and while there may be those who are terrified to talk about these, these influencers do it to remind ourselves that we’re human beings.
The thing is, influencing is much, MUCH more than looking pretty and endorsing a product. I would say that’s perhaps 30-40% of what influencing is. The rest is about sharing a message and engaging with your community.
So… Why do I do it?
For me, it’s a hobby. I don’t do it because I want to be famous, nor do I want to be stinking rich. I want to share my experiences in a creative way. But for many influencers, they can earn a living from it but they have to declare this as self-employment and really hustle for business. I work full time alongside blogging, but the skills I’ve developed since are transferable which has been a huge advantage for me.
Like many others who I’ve spoken to about this topic, I hate the term ‘influencer’. Sure, I might be influencing someone to try something or have a conversation about something, but to me it’s about allowing myself to be creative in my own unique way. I want to use my voice and experiment different things. If no one reads my blog, then at least I’m allowing myself to let out my own creativity. If someone reads my blog and can relate to it – then bonus points!
But the main reason for me to do this is the community. I don’t see followers as my audience; I see them as my community.
It’s not about competition, but it’s a supportive network of people who are just getting on with writing about what they love and trying things out. If someone gets a dream collaboration, I’m not going to sit and spit my dummy out. I’m going to cheer for them as they worked bloody hard for it. If someone is feeling down and not sure what to do, I’m going to reach out to them and ask if they’re ok. Not for attention. Because I know it can be an isolating feeling.
This was the reason why we set up HEY. Bloggers. We were fed up of feeling out of the loop, and not having someone we could buddy up with for coffee, photos and advice. Previous groups felt too isolating and you were like an outsider. Now HEY. Bloggers are one year in and we have seen such a difference with the community. It isn’t about the looks – it’s about the confidence people grow into.
Why am I even writing this letter?
“You don’t have to be young and beautiful… but it definitely helps.”
“With a smart phone and a bit of know how, anyone can be an influencer.”
“Influencers are perceived very much as lazy.”
“You’re helping people to be competitors against you?”
“It’s mainly young people.”
The above are genuine quotes from a recent news coverage on the local news, which left me feeling angry. Angry, because the story painted all influencers, as money grabbing young women who want freebies. But also disappointed that it was poorly researched despite having opportunities to find out what online content creating really is.
There was no mention of the hard work that really goes into this. Nor was there any mention about the hoops and barriers that are faced on a daily basis. Also no mention about the guidelines by ASA that we have to adhere to.
I also felt disappointed for Violet. She had prepared and informed to only have a snippet which focused on being creative about a jumper. No mention that she’s worked incredibly hard and has not only had the opportunities, but has created them for others.
So let’s settle some points from the coverage:
- Anyone can do it, regardless of age, but it takes time and a lot of hard work to get it right.
- No, you do not have to be young and beautiful – and it doesn’t help regardless. What actually helps is the content you’re putting up and whether it relates to your audience.
- It’s more than a smart phone and a bit of knowing how – its time, communication, learning new technology, adhering to guidelines and dedication.
- We’re not competing against each other. We’re supportive.
- We are certainly not lazy.
I could carry on my rant, but Violet has created a twitter thread which I think you should read to come to your own conclusion:
So I ask that you disregard the news report that Peter Levy deemed as “a fun piece which we’re taking far more seriously than we should”* but instead speak to the influencers themselves. Find out what it’s really like.
*The real tweet is here:
I will add that this is in no way against the influencer who was on the show – it takes a lot to go on TV or Radio and I admire her for doing so. But I will add that I was disappointed that these points were not discussed in some depth. I appreciate TV is time restricted, but it’s also a window into what life really is like behind the scenes of an influencer.
I hope this has been insightful on what really happens behind the scenes. It doesn’t cover everything, but it is a preview of the work that goes into creating content. I’m not an expert in the field – far from it. But I’ve seen enough to know that the coverage did not do it justice.
Finally, I want to say to everyone who is an ‘influencer’ – whether your niche is fashion or promoting a cause close to your heart. You’re amazing. If you ever want to talk, get in touch and I’ll be on hand with a listening ear.
What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to discuss more about this.
Until next time,