25 Nov 2017

Does being an influencer mean anything?

As of late, "influencers" are making a massive impact on the world of social media. (Note: I hate the word influencer but I'll stick with it for the sake of this post.) In the last month or so we've seen Zoella's advent calendar fiasco unravel in front of the world, we've seen certain influencers advocate the use of real fur and we've seen influencers make their way into the mainstream world of TV. But is being an influencer a load of bollocks?

On a personal note, I shudder when I receive a PR email and I get addressed as an influencer (with my minute following) and I guess it kind of devalues the term when you've got people with huge followings falling under the same umbrella as me. But with all of the recent controversy it's made me wonder a few things: Are influencers actually influential? Does being an influencer come with a moral responsibility? And is online influence a real thing?

I think to be an influencer in the social media world the most important thing is to gain your audiences trust. Being transparent with your audience is key to this because as soon as you start to veer away from your true self, your credibility is flattened and people generally start to question your motives. "Do you create content just to get free things?" is a common question asked by people who don't run a blog or have much of a social media presence. Getting freebies is obviously a perk to creating good content and it allows you to work with brands you didn't think was possible, but in my opinion it only works when you collaborate with companies/people who are relevant to your online brand. For example, if I wrote a blog post about a mattress I was gifted, I would fully understand people who questioned me because it's just so left field of what I usually do. I think it's slightly different to people who's source of income is from blogging or social media because bills don't pay themselves, but I'd like to think people in that position have integrity and wouldn't lie to their audience like that.

That links into the question about having a moral responsibility. Again, I wouldn't begrudge people taking sponsored posts if they're short of money because, shit I've done it myself once or twice! But I think the question is deeper than that. Like I mentioned, there's been a few instances in recent weeks where particular influencers have been called out for their bullshit. Zoella's advent calendar is a great example because she is probably the most successful person to come from the world of influencers. If you're not familiar with her, she's a YouTuber with millions of followers and most notably a young, impressionable fan base. She collaborated with Boots to create a 12 day(?) advent calendar which was priced at £50. Nowadays, that's not an extortionate price for an advent calendar with beauty/booze advent calendars floating around. But the contents of her calendar were shit to be quite frank. Cookie cutters, confetti and a pen were meant to please the kids who bought into the facade and ultimately she was met with backlash online. I think as someone who has gained her audiences trust over the years, she should have known better and Boots have since slashed the price.
Another incident was a blogger who wore real fur and again, was met with fierce backlash. It's hypocritical of me to chime in with my two cents because I wear leather and I eat meat but there's something sinister about advocating the use of real fur these days. There are plenty of alternatives these days which I think influencers should be pushing, but it makes me wonder if these people are aware of their responsibility? Sustainable fashion is something I try to involve myself in where possible so it's disheartening to see people with hundreds and thousands of followers undoing the hard work of bloggers who are pushing the narrative to ensure fashion is done right.

With all that said, does an online influence actually mean anything? Personally I believe that having a successful online platform definitely has meaning and helps people in their everyday life. Though my blog and social media is minuscule in the grand scheme of things, it's enabled me to get a job in the world of social media and there are even bigger examples of people who have used their platform to progress onto bigger and better things. There are hundreds of bloggers out there who started off with outfit of the day posts on their blogs and are now self employed and working with some of the biggest brands in the world. Take DJ Akademiks for example. He started making videos in his basement, commenting on what's going on hip hop and now he's co host on one of the most successful YouTube shows; Everyday Struggle (which I love by the way.)
The online world we live in gives everybody a chance to better themselves if it's used correctly and I think that's a beautiful thing.


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