In The Times newspaper recently, journalist Deborah Ross was calling for influencers to be renamed ‘detestable freeloaders.’ She described anyone who has ‘the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending items on social media,’ as not doing, ‘a single thing to merit this lifestyle,’ and any of their followers ‘morons.’
I took offence. I am an aspiring ‘influencer’ and ‘blogger’ but I’m also an ex journalist so I can perhaps see where Ross is coming from. Yes, I agree it can sometimes be nauseating to see very successful influencers on social media posting #ad after #ad but I don’t agree that these people are ‘masquerading’ it as ‘authentic content’ or that ‘they should be ashamed of themselves.’
Ross’ words were dripping with venom as she went on to accuse ‘detestable freeloaders,’ in particular a blogger couple called Katie and Ben who were featured in A Very British Country House, of ‘selling a lie.’ She also stated that the couple didn’t deserve their complimentary stay in a luxury hotel and that they weren’t helping its online presence.
Again, I disagree. Ross joins an army of people (mainly journalists!) who moan about the fact that bloggers (‘blaggers’) are promoting things that they might be getting free or not saying it’s an AD. Yes, influencers should declare that a post is an advert/sponsored but the lines between editorial and advert are being blended by bloggers. The audience knows that and what’s wrong with that? We’re living in an increasingly savvy world when it comes to advertising. People want a connection with the product and what better way to book a holiday or hotel because your favourite influencer has loved it or buy a pair of shoes because you’ve seen them on a fashion blogger you like?
The industry is growing with influencer/bloggers who write about everything from make-up tips to train journeys and they do work very hard: writing, filming and planning what they post. Press officers and PR companies are increasingly turning to bloggers who can get content out quicker, across all social media channels and to a larger audience. Newspaper and magazine editors probably feel threatened as bloggers and influencers are getting content out quicker to the same audience in a more accessible way.
Another blogger bugbear is grammar. But here’s a newsflash to the grammar Nazis: many readers don’t particularly care about grammar mistakes. Of course, some people still do prefer to read a ‘correctly’ written article but many don’t care! Audiences are simply ‘following’ people who they admire, find interesting, funny, controversial, like their clothes, their jokes, their advice. Sorry sub-editors…
Marketers and PR love bloggers – they want ‘authentic content’ with their engagement. The power of influencers is no longer being underestimated and it would be a mistake to mock them. They have an audience who cares about what they think, feel, say, wear, cook etc! Some of the bigger influencers have a larger reach than traditional media and the smaller ones can still have an influence within a niche.
Many who started it as a ‘side-hustle’ are now doing it full time and making a living out of it. People often start blogging or Instagramming as they are interested in the subject that they are writing about.taking pictures of. Perhaps they see it eventually earning them money/getting things in ‘exchange’ for the post. I started my blog as I love writing about all the great places I visit in Cheltenham and the Cotswolds.
Where is this all going to end up? It reminds me of a great Charlie Brooker ‘Black Mirror’ episode called Nosedive. Set in the near future: a smiley, status obsessed world, people wear contact lenses (like virtual reality headsets but they have advanced to being in your eyes) that enable them to see the ‘social rank score’ of anyone they interact with from your boss to a shop assistant. The story is about one woman’s darkly funny attempt to gain ‘likes’ so she can join an old friend as one of society’s elites. Is this where we are headed? Is all our social media going to be grouped together so that we become one social media score? Probably. And Deborah Ross might as well get used to it.