Man About City: Influencer blacklash – is it honest?
You may have noticed that in some of the articles I’ve written so far this calendar year, I’ve mentioned the fact that I failed to follow several social media accounts and influencers that I believed existed either around feeling others inappropriately or having flaunted their fabulous lives at a time when the mood of the nation was marked by discontent.
It seems I am not alone.
In response to my articles and podcast – The Stylin & Profilin Podcast – where I also shared these stories and opinions, I’ve received hundreds of emails and DMs from people who are fed up with the influencers. This is something I don’t applaud for reasons I’ll explain later, but it seems that the proverbial straw that broke many camels’ backs was influencing factors on planes during lockdown for “Dubai work trips” hopped.
Influencers who boast of sunshine vacations – sad work trips – amid the global pandemic are now facing an angry public backlash. Since they shared photos and videos of beaches and clubs, the lockdown doesn’t appear to apply to bloggers and models who have used “loopholes” to fly in the sun under the guise of work.
As the restrictions escalated, criticism has increased and the public has become increasingly disappointed with social media personalities and deaf-mute posts.
Instagram stars like Maura Higgins, Amber Gill, Molly-Mae Hague, Nicole O’Brien and Rob Lipsett have piqued the ire of their followers by flying to sunny climates during the global pandemic, and some even sparked anger by claimed to be essential manpower!
In the past few weeks, that anger has spread beyond Dubai’s beaches and discontent has spread domestically, with the influencer community generally under increased public scrutiny.
“I’m on the PUP and can barely pay my bills right now. Does (name not known) really think I want to see all the free things she gets? UNFOLLOW,” wrote an angry Instagram user.
It would be easy for me to join the mob and judge all influencers, but the problem is that I’m a person who uses Instagram to promote brands and products. So if I were to fully denounce influencer marketing, I would be a bit of a hypocrite.
Influencer marketing is there for a reason. It works out. It’s already a billion dollar industry as more companies use it as a strategy to improve their bottom line. Influencer Marketing offers many benefits to local, national, and international businesses who would admit they need help right now.
One of the immediate benefits of using influencer marketing is increasing brand awareness. A social media audience will learn about your brand, story, and offerings. Hence, it’s important to create valuable content that enhances social media presence.
Influencers have also built close relationships with their followers, building trust and credibility. Users respect their recommendations. For example, when a celebrity endorses a product or service, it instantly establishes the credibility of the brand they are promoting. Social media influencers have some degree of authority over the goods or services they endorse. Influencers relevant to a particular brand already have an established audience on social media. Hence, you can easily reach your target audience using an influencer. You don’t have to spend extra cash to test and find your market as the influencer already has one.
Influencers have the power to drive their followers to a product or service. Because consumers see them as trustworthy, they look to influencers for recommendations. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 49% of consumers rely on recommendations from influencers that could lead to sales.
So the concept is solid. The problem is how a certain part of the influencer market uses its “influence”.
As we discussed earlier, many of the influencers who came under fire during the pandemic for traveling to sunnier destinations defended their actions by stating that it was their job to be an influencer and that they should Travel is “unavoidable work travel”. Sheridan Mordew, a UK-based fitness influencer who has been in Dubai since early January, appeared on This Morning last week with Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, saying their trip was an “essential work trip” to bring sunny content to their fans offer and inspire them. She described herself as an essential worker.
This is an extreme case (of arrogance) but the idea of being an influencer is “a job”, doesn’t play a good role for the general public right now, and I can understand why. However, the reality is that for some it’s actually a full time job.
Personally, I haven’t translated my online presence into a full-time appearance, but I know a lot of people who have and I know a lot of work goes into creating content. These people have registered as limited liability companies, they make their money, and they pay their taxes. In my book, they are business owners whose personal brand is their business. Indeed, being an influencer is their job.
But like anyone starting a business, you need to take care of your customers and you have to care about customer satisfaction and customer service.
I will cite two recent examples of influencers who have made public faux pas as their reactions are a perfect example of how to deal with it and how not to deal with it.
Louise Cooney, one of Ireland’s biggest and most successful influencers, shared an Instagram account last week about her volunteering. Unfortunately, Louise inadvertently offended many by accompanying her charity post with a picture of her sitting on a brand new sponsored Mercedes. Queue public outrage!
I may be a little biased as Louise is someone I admire very much and who I would consider credit to her industry, but I have to give Louise credit for how she handled this unfortunate situation. Louise deleted the post the next day, but not before replying to each negative comment, admitting her mistake and apologizing for the crime caused.
Compare this to a young Dublin influencer – whom I just want to name, to say she’s the one who popularized OnlyFans among young Irish girls – when asked in an Instagram Q&A last week whether she responded for life or for choice. She said she was for life but would have an abortion if she wanted one. Queue public outrage!
This young lady’s response to the criticism was to scan all the critical comments she saw on Twitter with captions accusing these people of being sad losers and negative people just trying to be kind and wondering why someone would care so much about a young influencer’s opinions.
Let’s return for a moment to the “it’s my job / it’s my business” analogy. Let’s say I own a business and you buy a cup of soup from my shop. Now let’s say the soup I have for sale is spoiled and making you so sick that you have to spend time in the hospital. Let’s say when you recover, come back to my shop and point out my mistake to me. If my answer is “Why are you so negative? You are such a loser – just be nice” would you accept that? I do not think so.
I think that’s what’s getting lost in all of this. Everyone wants this unstable life and gets paid to post stories and get free stuff and free travel abroad. But not everyone wants responsibility and accountability for what they publish, so that social media content becomes your “job”.
Businesses need the help of influencer marketing more than ever, but the public needs influencers to get better. Trolls become trolls and there is never an excuse or justification for them, but not all critical feedback can be written off as trolling or toxicity, part of it is fully justified.
The reason I chose to write this is because of the number of emails and messages I have received over the past few weeks. On the last episode of my podcast, I mentioned that it almost looks like people want me to be the new Blogger Unveiled. For the uninitiated, Bloggers Unveiled was an anonymous Instagram account that gained huge audiences for reposting stories of bad news. Blogging Behavior by Followers. It quickly became toxic and became a breeding ground for misinformation and personal vendettas. The identity of the person running the account became public and disappeared. About a year later, ‘ShiteBloggersSay’ came along and followed it exactly the same path until suddenly disappearing when its anonymity was stripped.
These sites were / are horrific and have been shown to be motivated by hatred and personal resentment. In any case, so did the people who kept these accounts from the shadows. I’m afraid that the next time one of these accounts comes up, the person behind it will see no need to hide behind a veil of anonymity.
Let’s avoid this by being better, more socially responsible, and more attuned to the mood of the nation when we post. I say ‘we’ and not ‘you’ because I include myself in this matter. If I screw it up or offend it, I own it and take responsibility for it. I hope others will follow suit.