The Unbelievable Problem with Influencers

I remember back when social media was just becoming a ‘thing’, just as people begrudgingly migrated from MySpace to Facebook and we all insisted on setting up our pages with favourite movie selections and missed the option of having a Top 8 Friends list.

Brands started to realise the potential of having genuine testimonial reviews of their products, where real people would make recommendations to their real friends and help boost word-of-mouth brand recognition and eventually sales.

Then there came the rise of the Social Networkers, online celebrities, and LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) who connected with as many people as they could so they’d act as a hub for other people to break the 2nd tier connection gateway needed to send a private message or pitch.

At last, we have the generation of ‘Influencers’ whose main focus is to show their beautiful lives and demonstrate how any brand who pays can be part of it and act as a conduit for the advertisers.

Let me just add that I’m not an influencer, I’m a content-creator and storyteller who works with brands I like, use, and/or respect. The difference which I work hard to maintain, is being genuine about what I’m saying. If I talk about a product or service, it’s because I think it’s cool. Just as I did before I was ever compensated to do it, and still do, I post about things I see or use in a way that shows my authentic interest and recommendation because I think people would like it.

I’ve seen a swell of conversation, especially online with people getting fed up with ‘influencers’ who ask for freebies in exchange for exposure. These offers of almost no return-on-investment usually get laughed off, but sometimes are used to create a little brand advertising too.

ice cream truck owner, influencer,
Ice cream truck owner fed up with ‘Influencers’ asking for freebies [story]

However, the most believable recommendations come from people I know and talk to. A friend of mine, Stacey Robinsmith took a photo of some fried chicken from HiFive and even though the photo wasn’t the usual highly styled ‘foodie’ staged image I see on my feed, I found it so much more genuine.

I don’t have an issue with people trying to make it as an online content creator, product reviewer, videographer, photographer, or writer, as long as what they’re producing is of quality and provides a resource. Even an opinion piece is entertaining, but I’ve developed a mistrust of those who pose with any product that comes through the mailbox.

Oh, and then there’s those who play fast and loose with disclosing that they’re posting an #ad. Tags like #TeamTelus or #presstrip don’t make it clear that their opinions have been requested or might even be more favourable, especially when those tags are buried among other keywords.

influencer, foodie, food photography
Photo by Rock Staar on Unsplash

So what can we do? I want to keep talking with the brands I like, especially if they give me a little money to help with the ever-increasing family bills, but I also want to be real and speak with authority and share recommendations for things I believe in.

5 Influencer Golden Rules

  1. Only work with brands you love
  2. Say “No thank you” sometimes
  3. Start conversations
  4. Don’t be a mouthpiece, have your own voice
  5. Be honest about your sponsorships

I guess the most important thing for me to remember is to keep saying Thank you, but I have to politely decline” to the brands I just don’t think I can talk about with a good conscience, and post eagerly about the things, products, people, and services I love, whether they’re paying me or not.

After all, I do this because I love it.

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