The Reality of Influencers

By Adam Bull

The term ‘influencer’ has turned a little sour during the pandemic, to say the least.

What are they influencing? Who are they influencing? When no one has any money to spend and can’t go anywhere. There’s bitterness at their apparent ignorance and self-importance. The pandemic has really highlighted which job roles are deemed the most important and who deserves to be earning the most.

Influencers have been slammed, but actually, a large scope of different job titles seem to have been bundled into the same category of ‘influencer’ and are being tarred with the same brush. Not all of ‘influencing’ relies on pushing sales of protein powder from a Dubai poolside.

It’s understandable why the industry has earned such an eye-roll reputation. On the surface, it looks as though it involves nothing but travel and posing for photographs. But actually, the job role for many small-scale influencers includes the role of creative director, researcher, contract negotiator, model, photographer, videographer, presenter, editor, finance… For most small-scale influencers, there is no team working behind the scenes to create a social media brand, business and advertising platform. It’s an impressive and time consuming one man show.

There are plenty of ‘influencers’ abiding by the rules, promoting the rules, complying and creating free, enjoyable content for us to scroll through while we’re all bored on the sofa. They’ve often stumbled into the job just by sharing content of their passion in their free time. It’s a small minority who shot to instant success via reality tv.

With that in mind, it makes a lot more sense to break down the term ‘influencer’ into more specific job categories. Influencer is too vague, it’s like saying ‘businessman’ or ‘celebrity’. Look more specifically at what they are actually ‘influencing’ – is it just their previous passive fanbase from a TV show, or are they a niche and unique perspective on a particular interest that can then become lucrative advertising opportunities to a precious specific and tuned in demographic?

‘Influencers’ really encompasses anything and everything on social media. A woman labelled an ‘influencer’ could be sharing fashion for a specific body type, mental health awareness, interiors inspiration, social issues discussion, makeup fanatics, crafts, gaming, sports, finance… Influencers have power, and many use it for good, relevant, important and entertaining impact.

These are all considered different arenas in other job markets, all of these sectors warrant separate job titles in large corporations, so why not social media too?

Examples like Candice Braithwaite, probably considered an ‘influencer’ by some, but spends time online raising awareness of mortality rate of black women in childbirth. It seems reductive to give her the same job title as a Love Island contestant who’s launched a swimwear range. Dr Alex, who found fame on Love Island, has just got a government role.

Just because someone is based on social media, doesn’t mean they should instantly be referred to as an ‘influencer’.

The sign of a content creator who deserves more than a lazy ‘influencer’ label is their ability to create a loyal and engaged community who’ve come together because they’ve found a common ground in that content. It works on a basis of trust, a sense of humour, or being informative with an interesting perspective, being creative and a source of respect/authority on their subject matter.

The reality TV influencers have their valid place on Instagram just like the entertaining celebrity gossip magazines had a place on supermarket shelves. We enjoy the voyeurism and the aspirational window into their ‘celebrity’ lifestyle. But that’s not the only branch of social media that’s valid and has a place on the internet. If you would label yourself more specifically than ‘a PR’, then you should consider labelling ‘influencers’ more specifically too.