When I first started blogging six years ago, influencers weren’t really a thing to the extent that they are today. Sure, they existed, but the term hadn’t really come into the mainstream just yet, and influencer marketing was in its infancy. Flash forward to today, and even those who aren’t in the industry understand the concept of influencers and the power they can have when it comes to promoting new products and raising awareness of certain brands. This rising popularity has seen many people – particularly teenage girls and young women – take to platforms like Instagram to try and exercise this influence, and in some cases turn it into a career.
With the world becoming more aware of influencers and influencer marketing, I feel like the word ‘influencer’ has become a bit of a dirty one.
There’s a huge school of thought that influencers are essentially trying to blag free stuff and will promote anything and everything if they’re getting it for free. As with any industry, there are probably a few bad eggs who aren’t fussy about what they accept and share with their audience, but equally there are influencers who are very choosy with their content and know their audience inside out in terms of what they’ll be receptive to and what they won’t.
The word ‘influencer’ is also often used in the media when speaking negatively about bloggers and Instagram users. A recent Evening Standard article complained about influencers posing outside houses in Notting Hill without permission, and essentially trespassing on private property and annoying local residents.
As you’ll see with the photos on this shoot, I myself have taken photos outside pretty London houses. It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘do it for the ‘gram’ attitude and focus more on what’s going to look good on the grid than your surroundings, but I think as long as you’re being respectful of people’s property and not literally sitting on their steps stopping them accessing their house, then there’s nothing wrong with doing it for the ‘gram.
Before influencer culture really took off, we were essentially marketed to through adverts using celebrity endorsement. In my mind this focus has just switched to smaller scale ‘celebrities’ that we’ve chosen to interact with or see in our social feeds, therefore curating what we want to see rather than just buying into mass marketing. It’s unsurprising that influencer marketing has jumped on the back of this, and I think so long as influencers and brands are transparent around what their relationship is to one another, there shouldn’t be an issue with influencer marketing as a whole.
That said, with Instagram in particular, there has been a rise in ‘influencers’ faking their audience and taking on brand collaborations under false pretences, having bought followers and likes to make themselves appear more influential than they actually are. There’s also an issue with influencers not declaring when endorsement has been paid for, and thus eliminating trust between certain bloggers and brands and their audiences.
With this element of trust gone from the influencer sphere, it’s no surprise that people are waking up to fake followings and product promotion and really questioning who they can trust. Equally, the influencer industry is much more open to ridicule than it once was; or certainly under a different guise.
Attitudes towards influencer marketing have shifted from conversations around why you would want to work with influencers – do they really have any power compared with traditional media marketing? – to conversations around the credibility of these small-scale celebrities.
Even within the industry itself there’s a lot of so-called ‘influencer-bashing’, in which groups of people will attack others for their choices on a whole range of things – largely when it comes to people getting into blogging or Instagram for the money rather than for the love of the platform – and I don’t think this helps wider perceptions of influencers!
Whilst I don’t think that being an influencer is a bad thing, I do think there’s trust that needs to be won back by those looking to make it in the industry. You have to be aware of influencer marketing as a tool and understand how to strike a balance between honesty and product promotion, and I don’t think it’s an easy task by any stretch.
Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and whilst I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as an influencer, I’m excited to be riding the wave of the influencer generation.
I’d love to know your opinion! Do you think of yourself as an influencer? Do you agree with the way the influencer industry is operating? Let me know in the comments!