Please Blog Responsibly
One of the more popular questions I receive in my DMs or via email is either “how do I work with brands” or “how do I make money from my blog”. To get a more expert opinion on the former, check out my previous interview with Deborah Johnson, beauty PR and brand advisor on the truth behind working with brands.
Navigating life as an ‘influencer’ might come across as one big sponsorship programme adorned with ‘free’ clothes, brand holidays and online fame. And while everyone seemingly wants a piece of that pie, don’t be blinded by the smoke and mirrors of VSCOcam filters because being a successful influencer is really about managing your influence.
“The whole point of influence is influence itself, not the influencer.” Haggi Klorman, cofounder of Preen.me.
Last month, I picked up the latest Business of Fashion magazine, partly because a few people in my circle referenced it but mostly because Kim K was on the cover. The theme of the issue centred around influence - something I’ve had on my mind quite a lot lately - and who better to convert me into a BoF groupie than the Queen of Influence and the face of the Kardashian brand herself (love her or hate her, she has real pull!). The issue highlighted several interesting points about the subject matter, points which refreshed my own thinking around influencer marketing and some of which I’d like to share here today.
The Role of The Influencer
The concept of influence isn’t new, yet the rise of social media has repackaged the business of influence, where overnight success can now be gained by anyone anywhere. Yet let us not forget what the main role of the influencer is: influence!
Influencers are those who are able to affect change and behaviour in their networks and their communities. Most importantly, an influencer is someone who has an audience, however big or small, that takes notice; an audience which trusts their advice and takes their recommendations seriously. To build up that kind of trusting fanbase has become harder, as viewers are more suspicious of ads, marketing strategies and subliminal messaging. Audiences can smell bullshit quicker than ever before and the moment they do, your influence is broken and no longer as valuable to brands.
So my advice to those that crave knowledge around brand work or blog sponsorship: develop a transparent, organic and reliable relationship with your audience first and foremost. That authenticity is the most important aspect of any influence.
And while we all may fall suspect to the chasing of money via brand sponsorships, it's important to stand your ground when it comes to what you're endorsing. I’ve seen enough bloggers work with brands that didn’t make sense to their audience, which only works to threaten their authority. It's something I too might have done in the past because of course, it feels 'special' to have a brand consider working with you, especially at the beginning of your blogging career. However, I'm much stricter with my collaborations now, which often means turning away paid work if it doesn’t make fit with my target audience. It's about a responsibility to our followers to maintain authenticity at all times, otherwise the development of any true influence is at risk.
Influencer Culture: Credibility Over Celebrity
The tide is changing for influencer marketing, as social media further opens up conversations between the corporate and consumer worlds and viewers are becoming wiser to extensive marketing ploys. In the era of the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp initiative, social media has allowed audiences to hold each other accountable for our actions and messages. This isn’t to scare anyone from engaging with the platform but to allow those in positions of power to impact change on whatever scale.
As glamorous as social media life appears, those with influence are being put under the microscope over the use of their influence. I’ve been a longtime follower of Aimee Song from Song of Style and as she’s grown (and continues to grow), it’s not an unusual side effect of online fame to see ‘trolls’ placing negative comments on her posts. However, more recently, I’ve noticed comments questioning her influence and imploring her to shine light on other pressing issues than fashion and travel.
Not everyone wants to be an activist but examples such as these remind me about the importance of redefining the purpose of influence. Interestingly, we are seeing more brands collaborating with quirky, smaller influencers that stand for something or do other activities than just fashion blogging. In a meeting with an influencer agency last month, I learned that brands are becoming increasingly interested in working with influencers who are not only bloggers or models but are working on other projects simultaneously - it makes for a more captivating story, it seems.
Take ASOS for example. Their brand ambassadors are not just influencers, they are affluencers.
Whether they have a big following or not, they have something unique and individual about them, away from the standard #ootd type posting, and have the power to effect change within their smaller, engaged audiences. Look at the rise of the Slumflower and her #SaggyBoobsMatter movement. Or purchase the debut issue of POSTSCRIPT and read my interview with model and app developer Kesang Ball and the work she’s doing to create and support more inclusive communities. These guys are making noise about something important within their networks and brands are loving it. Personally, I’ve found that even the interest in me has increased over the last 3 months, as I’ve co-created my own publication. It seems that being a pretty face, wearing nice dresses and visiting beautiful spaces might not be cutting it anymore. Just like being back at school, extra curricular activities count for a lot.
So, while our fast paced digital world tries to convince us that we need to pushing out endless amount of content and that there is a certain formula to garnering overnight recognition (create a social media platform, post regularly, accumulate 100K followers, fly out to the Hamptons with Revolve, wham bam thank you mam!), quality still rules over quantity and credibility continues to take precedence over follower counts. Don't lose sight of the power of good old fashion grafting and the importance of creating something worthwhile.
And for anyone still asking about making money as an influencer, ask yourself what your own influence looks like. Social media has created a global market with an easy reach to anyone from any part of the world. So what are you saying with this kind of influence? Whatever it is, please try to blog responsibly.
RECREATE THE LOOK