When did the word ‘Influencer’ get so dirty?

Opinion
influence
/ˈɪnflʊəns/
noun
1.
the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.
 
It’s a word that makes some of us cringe more than hearing the word ‘moist’ or ‘mulch’ said out loud. It’s certainly become a dirty word in the blogging and journalist community in recent years but what exactly is the stigma behind this 21st-century business model for marketing?
 
Hands up if you are someone that skips past an official ad on social media…
Keep your hands up if you still find yourself following Instagram accounts that post ads or recommendations for products…
 
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We all consider ourselves super ‘woke’ when it comes to the big green monster that is corporate advertising, a small percentage of us even use ad-blockers or incognito mode in order to keep our cookies firmly in the jar and out of targeted ad campaigns grasp but yet psychologically we do not have the same aversion to a post by Selena Gomez holding a glass bottle of coke or Zoe Sugg using her KitchenAid mixer to make a pancake recipe from her own book. One huge difference, these are posts on their personal Instagram accounts, they are “real”, or at least they feel real. So, the kings of manipulation changed their tactic and the influencer was born. Big or small, it doesn’t really matter, this is advertising and it’s delivered directly to a concentrated market.
 
The demise of the Influencer bubble seems to have started with the widely publicised Fyre Festival fiasco which tarnished the name of many a high profile celeb and brought Influencer marketing into the spotlight for questioning. I’m not sure that the wave of ‘Influencer hate’ is thrown at the likes of multi-millionaires Kendall Jenner or Emily Ratajkowski though. Whilst they certainly have influence they are not Influencers, they are models, actors or performers. Let’s be perfectly honest here when we talk about Influencers what we really mean is that circle of Instagram where Bootea is a food group and cheap, fast fashion is king (I’m looking at you Pretty Little Thing).
 
Vacuous beautiful people posting beautiful photographs of beautiful things. Did I hit the nail on the head? I can’t begin to pretend that some ‘Influencers’ aren’t just that, looking for the next quick buck off an easy upload of a protein shake that will most certainly rot your insides. In a world where we are obsessed with removing labels, we are all too happy to label bloggers, Instagrammers and social media fanatics with the Influencer label along with all of the negative connations it carries. 
 
Just researching this piece I found comments like “Influencer scum”, “freeloaders”, “one of the vainest, inefficient, unreliable jobs ever”. Do a quick Twitter search of ‘blogger’ and it’s not all too dissimilar. Yet, some of the comments I found about Influencers are written by bloggers. Oh, the irony. The main grievance seems to be the concept of Influencer marketing, not so much with brands reaching out to bloggers/influencers for collaboration but rather the other way around. Sadly there are all too many examples on social media of restaurants/brands publicly shaming people for reaching out to do a collab, many are rude and hurtful, many stories like the one in the press recently about charging Influencers double drum up hateful and often insidious comments and surely that is the real horror behind it all.
 
For generations Creatives have been asked for free work for ‘exposure’ or ‘experience’, Some of the best internships in the world are still unpaid but this power shift toward Influencers and Influencer marketing is really rubbing people up the wrong way. Again, I digress. I’m not writing this to have a Question time debate on the ‘blaggers, not bloggers’ scandal. I’m here to understand when the word Influencer got so dirty.
 
 
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Scan back to the top and read the dictionary meaning again. It’s neither a positive or negative word, stick an -r on the end though and you’re in a whole new world. Bloggers shake in their boots at anyone daring to call them by the I word, they balk at the mere mention of the word and hasten to stick it on others in big red letters. I’m taking the word back. It’s fetch and it’s going to happen.
 
Influence, as long as it is positive, is such a wonderful thing to have on a person. One post of a coffee and cake can bring tens, even hundreds of people to a local business they would have never discovered before, sharing a cool eco-friendly product can influence people to be more responsible with their shopping and a mental health post can influence someone to go and have a chat. Influence is a powerful thing, for both the good and the bad. If you are able to make an impact or influence a decision toward something good then go you!!! Social media is so often tarnished in a bad light and maybe I’m just annoyingly positive but isn’t there something very pure about a platform that gives so many people of all different opinions, creeds, races the opportunity to share their opinion? Isn’t it sad when that is torn down simply because someone doesn’t agree?
 
Please don’t sell Bootea though, use your powers for good, share things you love, rant about plastic pollution and veganism, promote lovely little independent businesses. Just don’t tear others down. You aren’t perfect, I’m not perfect, but we can all influence each other to be a little bit more so.
 
See what I did there…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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