Why Don’t People Like Influencers?

With the growing popularity of influencer marketing and influencer engagement amongst brands the spotlight has well and truly been fixed on influencer culture and the impact it is having on consumerism. In the UK alone “one in four Brits has bought a product as a direct result of social influencer recommendations – but 42% called for content creators and influencers to curb the fake news and offensive opinions” according to research from Golin (2018).  Transparency from influencers and brands is crucial as more and more advertising regulations are being put into place to ensure that all paid for content should be made clear by influencers across all social media platforms. In 2017 the Committees of Advertising Practice and the Advertising Standard Authority shared this useful blog article: “Hidden” advertising on social media is taking up more and more of our time. In particular, marketing by influencers is an increasing challenge and one that doesn’t fit so neatly into our standard categories.”  The influencer industry is changing rapidly and brands as well as regulators have to keep up with those changes.

Why Don't People Like Influencers?

The advantage of using influencers in campaigns is the proximity that influencers have to a brand’s target audience. Fans/followers place their trust in influencers in a way that would take years for larger and small scale brands to establish themselves. There is no denying that at its core influencer engagement is about tapping into the relationships that influencers have with their follower base which is why PR and Marketing departments are so keen to work with social media influencers across a variety of platforms. Social media IS part of the media mix and using traditional media alone is not enough. At the same time standard advertising has started to incorporate the social media space with adverts becoming more “shareable”.

You can see where the lines start to converge when it comes to the influencer space, once upon a time you could read a review or an editorial and you knew (for the most post part) that it was earned coverage whilst with an advert you knew it was a paid for and you could make up your own mind whether you wanted to buy something or not. But now you see your favourite Youtuber/Instagram/Blogger/Tweeter talking about a product or service and you might be more inclined to check out that product because of the virtual relationship you have with that individual. It is not a faceless corporation telling you to buy from them, it is that “pocket friend” who makes you smile with their lovely pictures and funny jokes who is nudging your perception and potentially changing your spending habits. Many of your favourite online personalities, particularly on YouTube and Instagram and blogs, have invested time and money (hopefully not by buying followers) into building their online reputations, follower base and online clout. They are brands in their own right and they have the right to be paid for their time, effort and of course their influence. There have been a number of instances that have given influencers a bad reputation recently or which have led to people undermining the effort and impact of influencers which leads to the question of whether society actually likes influencers?

Sondoss Al-Qattan, a Kuwaiti  Make-up artist and blogger went viral globally in July 2018 after she shared a video of herself criticizing new provisions to protect Filipino domestic workers across the Middle East. Al-Qattan, currently has 2.4 million followers on Instagram and although her awful comments sparked an international outrage  and some brand withdrew their endorsement she still has a sold fanbase. This video gives a great overview of the story:

Interesting to note that she did not apologise and her online platform is still doing well so whilst she has lost some deals she may have been able to sustain her lifestyle directly through her fanbase. This is a good example of why some people do not like the power and clout that influencers have particularly when it comes to sharing harmful rhetorics, there comes a stage where they seem to be untouchable and unfortunately if they have fans who share their values even if brands distance themselves their online visibility continues to thrive. From a PR perspective brands have to be mindful of who they align themselves with, too often brands become obsessed with numbers and do not take the time to assess the character of the individuals that they are working with.

This moves onto the moral foundations of some influencers, is it all about the money or they actually care about the brands that they are representing? A great example of this was when the Road Safety Authority of Ireland had to withdraw an influencer campaign about safe driving and seat belts when the influencers involved were seen not using their seat belts correctly. From an ethical stand point it says a lot that individuals would accept money for a cause that they might not care about and their subsequent content could lead to harmful behaviour from their followers.

On the subject of money, people seem to have a complete misunderstanding of how much money influencers earn and so have become resentful of how influencers not only make their money but also do not see their work as even being worthy of payment. There was the interesting story of #VisaBae in April 2018 when a  fashion blogger, Rutendo Tichiwangani who had been living in the UK since she was 10 feared deportation to Zimbabwe from the UK. It came as a surprise to some when she launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund her visa application. Her online activities including YouTubing, blogging and instragramming had enabled her  to sustain a certain level of lifestyle, or at least enabled her to present a certain lifestyle to her followers.

She managed to raise twice the amount that she was asking for and is still in the UK by the looks of her instagram page. Her story raised the serious issue of perception and how followers perceive their online favourites but it also shows yet again that even with the backlash there were still many loyal fans willing to help and support her.

Perception is something that many people bring up when talking about social media influencers, most of us know by now that people only show what they want to show online, and of course due to the power of brand identity many show a highly filtered perspective. More often than not this is what brands want to align themselves with, real people who still look unreal. The online conversation surrounding instagram influencer Scarlett London was the inspiration behind this piece. The backlash to me was overwhelming and for the most part unnecessary. Her post in partnership with Listerine was criticised by some people who felt like she was representing a false ideal – which begs the question so those same critics complain about fantastical commercial adverts in the same way? The level of negativity directed to her was excessive in light of the context of the content. We have to each take responsibility for how much we are allowing ourselves to be influenced, anyone who sees this post and runs out to buy helium balloons to decorate their headboard with should probably spend less time on social media and more time becoming their own person.

Yes certain influencers can be described as ambassadors of aspirational living but it is up to brands to do the work when it comes to understanding the influencers that they work with. We have to understand that there are real people (bots notwithstanding) following these influencers and whilst I would never advocate for harmful rhetorics to be shared by them, their followers are their “bottomline”. Without fanbase support they would not exist, thrive or survive and without due diligence from brands they can be swept up in the idea that they are untouchable. They should be held accountable for their all of their actions but not reproached for simply existing.

Another interesting point that media outlets won’t always admit to is the way in which influencers are taking up space in the media realm – when PRs conduct media relations campaigns they are not just inviting journalists they are inviting influencers too. Inevitably the usual benefits and perks of the job that were traditionally only for journalists are now being spread out and causes tensions. With that tension comes the possibility that journalists may amplify negative stories about influencers in order to shift perception as Bola Awoniyi, Founder of The Fluid Concept mentions here:

Now is the time to understand and pay attention to the complexities of the influencer industry, learn from them rather than criticise all of them, after all they are not going anywhere anytime soon and do we want them to? Influencers serve a purpose in the media space, just take the time to understand what their purpose is and take it from there.

Why Stirring Up Black Outrage is Not a Strategic Marketing Ploy

I was scrolling through my favourite social media platform recently (if you don’t know what that is then you really haven’t been paying attention and I feel offended) and I came across some sentiments that are really starting to perturb me. Some people have begun to believe that brands are purposefully stirring up black outrage as part of a wider marketing campaign to get more brand attention and other people are believing what those people are telling them.

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As we know this year has been a year of PR disasters for major brands, from Pepsi to Dove these brands with multi-billion pound budgets have made nonsensical missteps when it comes to their advertising campaigns. These missteps have led to social media users voicing their outrage/concern/confusion/bemusement and for the brands to backtrack, take stock and usually issue a standard apology. The latest in this series of missteps is the Muller Rice’s latest advertising campaign featuring rapping bears:

When I initially saw this on TV I was actually shocked into silence, not only because it was steeped in awful, tacky stereotypes but it was a clunky, corny advert for what should be a basic product. This is not the first time that Muller Rice has used rap to sell its cereal/rice pudding/oats concoction, a couple of years ago they used Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby for an advert and it worked – it wasn’t racialised, it was a bear rapping to a remix of a song about rice pudding. It worked. It wasn’t too much it was just enough:

But unfortunately they had to take it too far with their latest advert. Remember Robert Downey Jr’s risky parodic (problematic but they knew it) role in Tropic Thunder when he tells Ben Stiller’s character to never take it TOO FAR when you’re going into character that is essentially what Muller Rice did with their latest advert. They took it too far.

Advertising, Marketing, Sales, PR are all part of the same family in that ultimately they want to keep consumers happy enough to stay loyal to a brand and keep a brand making money or keep a brand popular. Advertising is a visual form of communication that is designed to promote a product/service and to encourage people to spend their money on that product or service. Marketing in its purest form aims to inform consumers about a brand through a series of activities that build awareness which includes advertising campaigns (but is not exclusive to advertising).  So if an advert does not do a good job consumers will either stop trusting the brand or choose not to spend money with the brand. The worst case scenario is if the advert offends then the brand reputation and credibility of the brand is put into question and a PR disaster occurs as the subsequent relationship with consumers is diminished and trust is lost.

So here we come to the crux and purpose of this piece.

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When advertising departments/agencies get their content signed off by major brands the intention is to improve brand awareness, build brand loyalty and ultimately improve sales but if you end up offending an entire group of potential customers this will not happen. Black outrage is not part of this equation, it does not serve as some kind of hidden agenda to get people to pay attention to the brand. The insensitive/offensive/misjudged adverts simply make brands look ridiculous and out of touch and highlights that either there are not enough diverse/inclusive teams in these companies or that any “minority” staff in those teams are not given adequate positions of influence or power to block these missteps.

When these adverts come to light black outrage is not a driver for improved brand reputation and increased sales, it is not a marketing ploy. Black outrage in and of itself is a powerful tool to make these brands pay attention and whilst I understand that it has been used by media platforms for click bait tactics, it is does not work the same way in business. This is why social media has become such a driver for social change, without it we would continue to see brands overlook tangible diversity and inclusion and maintain a lack of social awareness. Why do you think so many of the major make up brands have only really started to up their game since the launch of Fenty Beauty, black outrage turned into black action, with black consumers becoming tired of being invisible in the product lines and adverts of these brands.

Black women turned their outrage at being consistently let down by brands like L’Oreal into consumer spending power not only making money for Fenty Beauty but also making money for other brands that pay attention and respect black people and black money.

When a brand lets you down, you stop buying from that brand (money is the only language that any business understands – great piece by glossy on this) or you make an effort to look for alternatives. If you cannot boycott the brand, e.g. Dove is owned by Unilever which pretty much has products in every aspect of our lives so it would be pretty difficult (not impossible) to boycott Unilever. You can shift your attention to independent, smaller businesses and bless them with your money and use your outrage to empower fresh dynamic brands.

Your voice has power!

Your spending power is important!

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

I fear that by people believing the ideology that the creation of black outrage stirred up by these brands is some kind of strategic marketing ploy will silence many, encouraging them to ignore and overlook these missteps. Now is not the time to be silent though, now is not the time to turn a blind eye. Collective noise and action in whatever form, be that through social media or elsewhere is a powerful tool for the under-represented. Do not give these brands a pass, keep speaking up when they mess up, shame them into doing better because we all deserve better, not only when we’re spending our money but in life in general.

Bonus!
Watch this dinner discussion I had for #CookTalk with AngryBlackWunmi where we discussed this intricacies of this topic.

6 Ways to Turn Your Online Community Into Paying Customers

How To Turn Your Online Community Into Paying Customers

I love the immense potential of social media, there are so many opportunities to build a community of supporters, friends and even brand ambassadors using social media. For too long people have discredited social media as not being a “serious” way of building a business and just another noisy distraction from achieving tangible goals. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Social media is not only a powerful tool in PR, Communications and Marketing but it can also lead to high returns if you are strategic and smart about how you use your online presence. When it comes to selling online, many people are uncomfortable because they don’t want to sound too much like “sales”. But sales can be sexy especially if what you have to offer is high quality and adds value to your online community’s life.

Here are 6 ways that you can turn your online community into paying customers:

Keep reminding people of what you have to sell: You would be surprised how often people forget what you do, even if you have a really good profile people need to be remind. Do not hesitate to just share an update reminding people of what you do and what you have to offer. It is a simply as that.

Make it easy for people to spend their money: Include a link in your bio and with any relevant updates that you share. Make it easy for people to find out how to buy from you, if they have to spend too long looking then the chances for conversion are reduced pretty quickly.

Don’t be shy: If you have achieved something great, do not hesitate to share your good news story and to celebrate online so that your online community can celebrate with you and it also adds further credibility to your brand image.

Be multi-dimensional and authentic: As you share your business and brand message be authentic without being restrictive. If you become too one dimensional and repetitive there is a risk that people will become weary of your sales communications online particularly if it is all one-sided. Be open to sharing other people’s news and stories without expectation.

Always be grateful: Thanking members of your community who have already been customers is a great way of letting other members of your online community know that you are grateful for their support. Gratitude, online and offline leads to abundance.

Be consistent: If you are consistently sharing your business brand news and and updates after a while people are more like to not only remember you but also trust that you will be able to deliver. Be consistent with your online community in order to build the level of trust and loyalty which will make them feel confident enough to spend money with you.

I hope these points help and if you enjoyed these points make sure to share or order one of my eGuides!