If you spend any time on social media, you might have seen the story about social media influencer Elle Darby. In case you haven’t, I’ll give you a very brief recap. Elle has an impressive following on Youtube and on different social media platforms. She uses this in various ways and part of this is working with brands to review/collaborate with them. You can read all about Elle and the issue here. She contacted a hotel about a collaboration (which involved her staying at the hotel for free in exchange for exposure). The hotel didn’t take it well and published the email and a rather ‘spirited’ reply explaining why the answer was no.
The whole story is very interesting, and the comments from people supporting both sides are also very interesting. From accusations of bullying to freeloading and everything else in between, the story of Elle Darby and the hotel could signal something else. Is the tide turning on influencers?
Is the tide turning on influencers?
As you may know, I do work with influencers with a number of the brands I work with. Some influencers are worth their weight in gold, go over and above, and the investment made in them in terms of product is repaid over and over. Some don’t. I have worked with influencers who fall into the don’t category and it’s not good. You feel like your client has been ripped off and badly treated and it’s horrible. The client is left with a very bitter taste. And then the client distances themselves from that influencer (or waits for them to do as they are meant to) and it’s a horrible, uncomfortable process. And then, if you’re lucky, the influencer has a bit of a strop when you know full well they haven’t done what was promised AND they’re eyeing up a competitor’s brand. Luckily the latter are in the minority if you put a lot of effort in to finding the right people, but it’s out there.
For a while now, I’ve seen the tide turning on influencers. Not the good ones I hasten to add. There will always be a place for good, genuine people to work with brands they love. Always. But for those who don’t deliver, I think it’s going to be a very interesting year. Brands are realising that, actually, they have the power. And that in many cases their followings far exceed that of the influencer. Of course, the size of a following isn’t the only reason a brand would choose to work with an influencer. It is, however one metric in a range I look at when I assess someone. There is huge value in a lot of aspects of what an influencer can offer and what value they bring to the brand… but that’s a different blog!
So do I agree with what happened to Elle?
Nope. I do feel that she was called out and publicly humiliated and that wasn’t nice or necessary. I didn’t think the email was horrific, but it wasn’t the best. It was actually a lot better than some of the ones my clients get barraged with each day. Of course, pitching it differently could have resulted in a different outcome, much like the tsunami of requests for free ‘stuff’ my clients receive. I continue to be blown away by the nerve of some people, but that is a whole different blog.
In Elle’s defence, she does have a good following. I haven’t spent a huge amount of time watching her content or looking at her following as I don’t think we share that many similar interests, but that’s not a criticism. And in the hotel’s defence, the email was impersonal, didn’t really show an affinity or connection with the hotel, no research had been done and she’d possibly underestimated the size of their own social media following. Also, it could have been the 20th ‘begging’ email that hotel had had that day. But calling someone out on social media like that is never good. And the barrage of hateful comments that have been directed at her are not necessary either.
Is it because people don’t understand the power of an influencer?
Maybe. To someone not involved in the world of social media and influencers, it does look like someone has asked for something for free. End of. But that isn’t the case. Influencers can be big for a brand. If Zoella uses your product on one of her videos, your brand will get a LOT of exposure. That has a lot of value. Look at the stats related to magazines and their circulation, and even website visits… and now look at the size of Zoella’s audience. And now you’ll see what I mean. Of course, Zoella is queen of the influencers, but I’m using her to push the point. The right influencer can do big things for a brand. But unfortunately there are a number of people who sport the ‘influencer’ or ‘brand ambassador’ badge, and they don’t deliver, so they really are just asking for free stuff.
So is the tide turning on influencers?
I think yes, actually, the tide is turning on influencers. I think brands are seeing the true value of influencers, good and bad. I think that this will help the good influencers rise and do much better, but I think that the people who are falling short are in for a tough time. And I do also think that influencers will also start to see the value in the fact that brands are now also influencers in their own right, with bigger followings and better connections. I think we’re in for an interesting time.