In today's article I wanted to speak about the current negativity towards the current modus operandi of Influencers. For transparency I was asked to write this for a friend Marcus on his Blog Chic Geek but sadly missed the deadline so will publish my thoughts here.
Is the Influencer Bubble about to pop?
I remember a few years back when the word 'influencer' was getting tossed around. Actual non self-proclaimed 'influencers' were starting to distance themselves from the term.
Some far too modest, others a little embarrassed to be referred to as someone that can hold sway over peoples buying predilections. Perhaps they didn't see any benefit in being given a moniker that gave them an unelected responsibility.
Influencers not wanting to be referred to as influencers then repackaged themselves as content creators. More ambiguous and less offensive.
The package is suddenly more appealing. Influencers, Bloggers, Igers, Vloggers, Podcasters no longer had to pigeon-hole themselves.
They could market themselves as all-rounders. Jack of all trades. Truth is, they're all glammed-up expressions. When you distil us all down we're only digital marketers. Some take ownership of that, others are blissfully unaware.
So that's a little thumbnail sketch of how the sands shifted in recent years. At least in my eyes.
Why do people hate Influencers?
Firstly I don't believe people hate influencers. If everyone hated them you'd never here of them. You might not like Justin Bieber but 104 million people do (on Instagram at least).
I think there is certainly a jealously factor at play, both inside and outside the influencer circle. I like to use the DB5 analogy.
Imagine you've just bought your dream car, an Aston Martin DB5. You've worked tirelessly for it. Then your neighbour buys an Aston Martin DB5. Only this one has been driven by Sean Connery. All of a sudden you start to resent your own Aston Martin DB5. Those seats have not had been blessed by the arse cheeks of James Bond, it's value has depreciated and your neighbour is the root cause.
It's human nature, it's exactly why we hate influencers. They make their lives look so fantastic don't they? Those beautiful sunset photographs in the Florida Keys. That breakfast in bed in the hotel with the idyllic view overlooking Gaudi Square. Fair enough, we say. They've earned it.
But have they? Have they worked harder than I have in life? Do they deserve that sunset more than I do? What’s more, they're not even paying for it. In fact they're being paid to attend press trips, often in exotic locations, being treated like royalty, living a life of utter decadence. How?
Are my friends jealous?
No wonder influencers are hated. I've had many friends that have known me from my I.T days. Whilst on a recent stag-do, a friend curious to know about my career asked 'you've landed on your feet with that Instagram gig haven't you?'
It's funny in a way, I could take so much from that simple statement. Landed on my feet, like I won the lottery or something. That Instagram job, like Instagram hired me to fly to Bali.
At the consequent wedding I was also confronted by the same gentleman we shook hands and in an unguarded moment confessed 'Every time I see you on Instagram I think, that lucky ****'.
In a way it's a backward compliment. That the quality of images on my Instagram page are good enough to make people wish they were there, or at least in my shoes.
However, I know it comes from a place of jealousy. People think my ship has come in and I'm off gallivanting around the world having everything paid for. So that's why influencers are viewed negatively. We look like lottery winners. That's why so many people want to be one.
Why Instagram is a big deal?
You can communicate instantly more information in a picture than you can in a blog post.
A picture of a product or a location, can tell you many things, whether visually its something that aligns with your identity. 'Can I see myself wearing this jumper?' for example, or 'I'm booking holidays right now, where can I go that's warm and not too far.'
I follow a lot of travel bloggers for this reason. Getting great tips on places to see and things to do, from people that have been there can be like having your own travel guide sometimes.
With regards to negativity on Instagram, you can point to a few things. People being jealous of others. Perhaps they feel like they haven't earned the quality of life they are either living or portraying. Ultimately, you have the choice not to follow people.
Real life and virtual representation
You can like a person in real life and be indifferent to their 'virtual self'. How many times do we look at social media, see a post from someone we thought we knew and say 'why is he/she posting that?'
Maybe we think we know a person well but they're always going to have beliefs, interests, or a different interpretation on things. For example I follow people that never talk to me about football in real life, but all they talk about online is football.
Same with politics. I never post about politics, it's not my area. I don't think my audience would be interested in those subjects either. So guess what, in real life people might not bring those subjects up because they know it's not on my radar if they follow me online.
What is the future for Influencers?
The future for influencers is going to be an interesting one. Already we're seeing the CMA clamp down on what many still think is the wild west of the internet.
There will be more transparency. There will be more regulations. As there should. But who will enforce those and what punitive measures will be introduced is another question. Take Facebook right now, has anything really changed since Cambridge Analytica?
Was anyone brought to justice for the mis-sharing of data that was used to profile US voters? Did Facebook shares go down? Nope they went up.
With influencers it's a very saturated market. It will all come down to hard data eventually. ROI's will be more closely monitored and evaluated.
The big players that have been there since the beginning, will still be able to name their fee. Others will have to continue to fight for campaigns, adapt and augment their platforms so it can always offer something new and look to reach out to new audiences.
What lies ahead for this 'influencer'?
For example I'll be focusing a lot on wellness this year. I'll be posting more articles and YouTube content on positivity, mental health etc. I've been on the receiving end on what I class as cyber-bullying quite a bit in recent months.
I've had to dig deep sometimes, go to the emotional well as they say. As you say there is a lot of negativity around Influencers, we're not immune to it, we see it. It might not be happening on Instagram, it's probably happening on Twitter more as people can vent and live more voyeuristically that way.
I hope you've enjoyed this ramble, I've got a lot more to say on this matter and you can also catch my thoughts on the Instagram Fraud article that was doing the rounds last week.