When did the term influencer become such a dirty word?

When I started blogging eight years ago Mummy Blogger was something only the marketing industry understood. If I tried to explain how I spent my time to friends, I’d always end up tongue-tied. I mean, who gets paid to go and see a film with their kids at the weekend? Sounds too easy to be a job, right? And so I would go along with it. I’d talk down what I did, and agree that I was incredibly jammy to have ended up making my living out of having a bubble bath and writing about it on my blog. My own mother once told me that she enjoyed reading my blog, but that she couldn’t understand why anyone else would want to. Maybe that’s where the inferiority complex began…

Now the stigma has transferred to Instagram, where people who have built an account interesting enough to have an engaged following are often approached by brands to talk about their products. The marketeers have dubbed us ‘influencers,’ and there are whole events aimed at professionals who want to know how to work with us to get their brands’ products in front of our followers. I was at PI LIVE yesterday, where I heard one speaker explain how influencer marketing would very soon take up 20% of the total advertising spend of a brand, and another detail how to police influencers’ “bullshit figures.” Because, we’re all liars, basically…

But here’s the thing that I think explains it best:

We’re all influencers. Every single one of us who has recommended a local shop to a neighbour, passed on a skincare tip to a friend, or argued a point over the dinner table is an influencer. It’s human nature to share opinions and knowledge. Influencers who’ve taken it one step further, to earn money from their opinions, have simply given their thoughts publicly – and become trusted by their followers – for long enough, and often enough that brands have noticed, and want to spend their advertising budgets on their platforms. It’s no different from paying ITV to show images of chocolate in the Coronation Street breaks, or Cosmopolitan sharing their favourite Tried and Tested blushers in between editorial pieces.

I swapped business cards with a woman recently who couldn’t have made it clearer what she thought of me if she’d ripped my card in half and stamped on it. It doesn’t have the word influencer on it (I call myself a blogger on there), but she asked me if I was one, and told me that all the influencers she’d met were ‘crap.’ Once I’d finished mentally pushing my olive cocktail stick into her eyes, I smiled sweetly, and told her I’d be glad to have her feedback on my blogging skills if she fancied using my card. I’m confident she won’t be reading this any time soon…

There’s a perception that we’re a shady bunch who make money off the back of our kids (if we’re parent influencers), or by taking free holidays and not telling the truth about what a terrible time we’ve had while we were away. None of it is actually work, and it’s all fake. In most cases however, nothing could be further from the truth. As a parent I make very careful considerations about what I will post concerning my children, and I don’t know a mum who doesn’t. We’re warned so frequently of the dangers of the internet that making sure our kids are safe, and that our content is age-appropriate is a top priority for most of us. Also, logically, it makes no sense for me to promote products I wouldn’t use myself, because my audience would soon figure that out and stop following me. Where payment takes place, I always make that clear, and I am honest in my opinions of whatever I review.

All of this to say that I’m fine with being called an influencer. Being an influencer is not a nefarious way to make money out of unsuspecting bystanders, it’s a living I’ve happily been able to carve out for myself by sharing content, and writing articles that I think will interest other people like me. I regularly get emails telling me how much one of my posts about diabetes has helped a family come to terms with their own diagnosis; mums tell me that they’ve booked holidays based on my recommendations, and had an amazing time; others thank me for being honest so they could make informed decisions about whether or not an experience is right for them.

Now tell me, how is that an unscrupulous way to make a living?

If you’re still trying to get your head around what an influencer actually does to earn money, Emma from Brummy Mummy of Two has written a blow-by-blow account that describes all the processes, and the real work that goes into what she does for a brand.

Work: Why I’m happy to be called an Influencer

What exactly is an ‘influencer,’ and when did it become such a dirty word?

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