“Freeloading whore,” she called me.
(Actually, Sarah was called a bit more than that, but we have to bleep those bits out) all because she’d tweeted about getting a jar of La Mer from Women & Home.
Sarah Britten in conversation with BizRadio’s Grant Jansen
Podcast | Click HERE to listen
Not even the free Range Rover Evoque I drove for a year attracted an insult filled with so much frothing indignation. I was grateful for @Jozigrrl, though, because she gave me a great intro to this column, and an excuse to write about something much more interesting than celebrity endorsement: social media influencers.
This is a subject that seems to get more, not less controversial, as social media becomes more established. Social media influencers are intriguing because they occupy a nebulous zone between celebrities and media, and they attract plenty of flak because of that.
I have seen the debate from both sides of the fence. As a strategist who works with social media, I love influencers. I need them for my clients, and I’d be very sad if they didn’t accept invitations to events and free product. I’ll look at BrandsEye data to see who’s driving conversation around particular subjects and then target them. As Michael Krynauw of [email protected] says, a shotgun approach is no good when it comes to managing a social media crisis. You want to find the people who are most likely to impact on the conversation.
Even when your brand is not in the middle of a crisis, influencers are important. They drive conversation, and because, unlike celebrities, they don’t charge fees, they’re much more affordable. In an age where word of mouth counts, they can be more credible than your average walking billboard. But the rules of the game have yet to be worked out – hence accusations like “brand slut”, which is what an otherwise nice doctor on Twitter called me the other day.
As an influencer, I’m probably D list because, while I’m good on Twitter, I don’t punt products via any of my blogs. (Not for any fine and upstanding ethical reasons – I’m just too swamped with work to blog consistently.) I do love brands that give me access to things I otherwise wouldn’t have – the jar of La Mer, for example, or VIP access to the Winter Sculpture Fair – and I try to give good value in return for the gift while keeping it entertaining for my followers.
It’s a difficult balance, because the interests of followers and the influencers of brands aren’t always a neat match – hence what amounts to cyberbullying. It’s precisely because influencers are not celebrities that they attract so much resentment. Celebs are allowed freebies; it is the nature of being known for not very much. But we of the higher than 60 Klout score are lesser beings, perceived as muscling in on territory we don’t belong. This is less an issue of credibility than it is of good old-fashioned jealousy.
How do brands handle this? Well, if people are jealous, that’s a good thing: it means your brand is desirable. The best way to do it is to follow the conversation and find someone who loves you already. And never pay anyone to tweet. That’s for the Kardashians of the world.