Before I even start trying to write this post I feel I need a bit of a disclaimer to say that the term influencer in relation to the job that I do and the role that I play online is not a label I’m comfortable with. I will always be a blogger. I don’t do this job to influence people but I do appreciate that bloggers have influence – as do so many people across social media – hence the name we have been given.
The influencer industry has grown massively over the last few years and from purely bloggers with social media channels linked to their blogs there are now influencers who are on just one channel – YouTube or Instagram for example with engaged followers waiting to see what they post next.
Influencers have turned into the new soap opera or magazine for many people, a way to pass a few minutes or half an hour when they get a chance, getting to know the person behind the social media channel and following their lives and adventures with interest. It’s like non-stop reality TV and followers do get quite invested in the people and the lives they see opening up before them – it’s human nature really.
And it’s because of this, having become a regular installment in people’s lives, that we have being labelled influencers. Because whatever influencers share people tend to have an interest in. This could be meals, fitness regimes, holidays, days out or just a style of living or parenting. People follow the influencer and at least part of what they share will rub off in some way.
The followers could love something an influencer is sharing, they could hate it, it could give them an awareness of something they hadn’t heard of before or open their eyes to a new cause or project. Everyone will take something away from the people they follow across social media even if it’s just subliminally or a vague recollection at a later date that they’ve heard of something before.
And that is influence.
Many people will say they are not influenced at all by the people they follow online but even seeing an advert and being aware of a product/place/service that you hadn’t seen before is influence – just like an advert on the TV, a full page advert in a magazine or a local garage being advertised on the radio.
Because of this I think that we, influencers, need to be mindful of what we share online. The things we promote and the lifestyles we publicly lead.
As an influencer I don’t advertise gambling in any form. This is because, in the simplest form, someone could think that I was endorsing gambling, that I was saying it was ok, and that person could follow a link on my blog and end up getting themselves into debt and losing their home. All because I shared something. I would never want to feel in any way responsible for something like that.
There are so many things like this where influencers make a personal choice to not promote something because it’s not something they agree with or they wouldn’t want to be responsible for someone else buying something or using a service that could go badly further down the line. Another example that has been in the media recently is celebrities endorsing diet products where they’re pregnant. That’s not responsible and our regulators rightly banned those adverts. Influencers need to be responsible and to promote responsibly.
I think that influencers have a part to play in the rise of term time holidays. Many influencers get offered holidays during term time and I know a large proportion of those also decline the holidays, trying to negotiate ones during the school holidays or a weekend instead. But, many still go on holidays during term time and promote them across their blogs and social channels.
I am sure that there are people who follow influencers who think if it’s ok for them then why shouldn’t it be ok for me? Then next time they look to book a holiday they might be more inclined to see what the prices are like during term time, taking their children out of school for a few days or even a week or two.
I know there are probably influencers reading this thinking nah, I don’t have influence over people. They have their own minds and make their own decisions. There are also non-influencers reading this thinking that, actually, they’re not influenced at all by people online. But, I can guarantee that influencers help to plant a seed. If someone was tempted to book a term time holiday, try out matched betting, read a certain book, start a new hobby or book a trip to Disney World then seeing a blogger or big Instagram account doing just that might help inspire them to follow in their footsteps.
I think as our industry grows we need to be mindful of the things we share and the things that we endorse. I think we need to appreciate that some people will be more influenced than others on the things they read online. There are people who will buy things an influencer puts in front of them, who will aspire to have the same lifestyle and who will make the same choices because they’ve seen how they’ve worked over time on a social media account they follow.
I am aware when I post things online that thousands of people have access to every word and image. In the scheme of things I am a very small fish but I am still really aware of the impact that the things I share can have not just on my own family and friends but on people further afield.
Every time we share something we are recommending it – be it a day out, a holiday or a takeaway in front of the TV. We don’t need to say ‘go buy this/do this/experience this’ as showing it is enough for it to be a subtle recommendation to other people. I get messages daily about things in the background of an Instagram Story or mentioned just in passing in a blog post. If we are publicly using something or doing something we are endorsing that and that is something we really need to be conscious of.