Why I hate the word influencer

Photo 26-08-2016, 18 51 13

I rarely feel compelled to write rant style articles or vocalise negative thoughts, but over the past few days I’ve been bursting with irritation over the multiple articles on influencers of late. The majority of which are grossly negative; claiming those deemed as such are simply walking advertisements with no brains, looking for a few quid and an easy way to market themselves for the sake of vanity or pretend power. Journalists have been dumbing down content creators as empty vessels that are simply good for the odd selfie with free product in hand or paid event attendance. The positive articles are few and far between and seem to simply elaborate on what an influencer is, where it came from and why there’s such an influx surfacing of late.

I was recently included as one of the top Influencers in Ireland by Goss who are always hugely supportive of bloggers, but the positive article fluffed a few feathers in the media world to say the least. I’ve been nominated for awards in this nouveau category and asked to speak about my role in digital marketing around the country. HOWEVER, I cannot stand the term, the negative connotation surrounding and the simplified elaboration of what it entails. I understand people feel the need to understand and define what we’re doing, but the majority of explanations are derogatory. As a result I don’t consider myself an influencer. Why? Because at no point did I ever have the goal of influencing people. I have no desire to feel powerful online or force people to drink tea. I spread positivity, I do charity work, I’ve spoken about real issues like mental health and horrific break ups in an educated and dignified manner midst superficial but beneficial posts housed under the beauty and fashion roof. I wanted to run my own business in a successful and humble manner and showcase my skill set with the ability to make money from doing what I love.

For those of you unfamiliar with my story, I went to school followed by art college. Thereafter I worked as a make up artist for four years from counter to catwalk, and print to theatre, I collated a wide range of MUA experience. Thereafter, I studied child psychology and special needs in a bid to vary my career options and above all feed my soul. I worked as teacher for three years running my make up career freelance. I began blogging in a bid to expend my passion for beauty and fashion, gain more notoriety in that area and in turn obtain more freelance bookings. As my blog and social media following grew PR companies began contacting me. As a result of liking my style of writing, my personality, aesthetic, or all three, I was chosen to review and feature products I liked in the line of beauty, fashion and lifestyle. Back then there was no money in advertising on a small blog, naturally. I earned money through teaching, weddings, debs and night out make up and blogging was a subsidiary hobby. I always planned to integrate my hobby into my working life but knew it would take time and a lot of work. I worked 7 days per week for 2 years until such time my blog became big enough to explore the avenues and opportunities surrounding. I held a launch party, brought out my own dress and earrings, collaborated with hundreds of brands, worked with celebrities for free in order to get the odd tweet or mention. I was then contacted by make up brands to showcase my extensive experience in touring masterclasses and workshops. I devised my own social media seminars, I held style and body confidence workshops, I visited businesses and spoke to schools. I began paying a web designer to help turn my basic blog into a fully functional online magazine. I ensured there was a daily digest of content, I continued to work with brands that I loved, ensuring my opinions were always positive but honest. I declined, and decline numerous offers, unpaid or otherwise in a bid to maintain my loyalty with followers that enjoy watching my journey. I’ve been nominated for, and won awards including Best Beauty Blog, Best Company Blog, Best Social Media, and voted as one of the top people in the world to follow by Vogue. I’m the female ambassador for Renault and Miss Fit. I’ve filmed and edited the educational videos for Easilocks. I’m signed with three Media agencies, one of which is in the UK, an area I always wanted to branch into. Before I continue, this is not a paragraph bragging about my accolades, this is leading to information I want to make very clear.

I began traveling to various locations in Ireland and reviewing hotels, dining and other lifestyle amenities I knew would interest my following. I began sharing my weight-loss journey, meaning going to the gym was now part of my job and an obligation. Horse riding is another avenue I include in the lifestyle section because the content is different and I’m always conscious of evolving. I wanted to write, and after getting my first publishing deal last year I became a best selling author. I wanted to create my own brand and the next few months will include some very exciting announcements that will silence a few naysayers. From salon openings to snapchat takeovers, hosting fashion shows and presenting on TV. I’ve worked as a model, an MUA, a stylist, a content creator, a writer, a videographer, a blogger… and now I’m considered a ‘digital influencer’.

The reason why I hate the term is because it implies all we do is simply influence people into buying things. The hashtag AD and Spon are slagged on the daily and yet if they’re not included all hell breaks loose because people want to know ‘the truth’. Well let me tell you the truth. Advertising has always been around, from Kate Moss selling you that red lipstick or Rosie Huntington Whiteley making you want to put down that piece of bread or buy that lingerie, this concept is OLD NEWS. Celebrities never have to explain themselves when promoting something on social media, it’s been going on for years and yet the new rise of reality stars and well known bloggers has brought a huge influx of negativity and contradictions. To be clear, I respond to hundreds of mails, tweets and comments everyday. I have built a relationship with followers who trust what I have to say for a reason. No one is forced to buy that top or holiday I post about, but naturally, for whatever reason my personality and work has influenced people in an aspirational or inspirational manner, in an organic way.

The other day I was wearing a cute pair of trainers and my friend asked me where I purchased them and if it was ok if she got them too. Did I ‘influence’ her? Was my purpose of wearing those shoes to make her buy them. Absolutely not. I wore them because I liked them, because I like style and fashion and guess what, I wear shoes. My friend chose to like them and in turn buy them, I simply brought them to her attention. And the same goes for honest bloggers. We write about what we love, we don’t take just any product and shove it down our readers throats because we’re an ‘influencer’ and that’s our soul purpose. When you gain a following that takes years to build you don’t ruin that loyalty in exchange for payment; no one is that stupid. The key players in the blogging world hate this term because we’ve worked our socks off to get here and it’s belittling to say the least. We are our own PR and marketing, we do pretty much everything an entire team does daily, online, for everyone to commend or critique. Do I have bills to pay? Of course. I educated myself and worked my way up the ladder for years to get where I am so will I work for free? Are you mad? My work ethic, brand, standard of curated content, online appearance and following is worth money and I’m not ashamed to say that.

Somebody knocked me indirectly in a recent article asking how a beauty blogger can drive around in a free car. The implication was how cars have anything to do with beauty and that being their ambassador is nonsensical. Well let me tell you, firstly I post a balanced mix of beauty, fashion and lifestyle. Lifestyle covers a wide variety of material including the likes of travel, fitness, food etc. I drive, around the country holding workshops. I snapchat in my car and I like cars, just like I like shoes. Placing a ‘beauty blogger’ in a car is a far wiser partnership than you can imagine and the sales of my cream and black Captur is testament. Digital influence is the ability to create an effect, change opinions and behaviors, and drive measurable outcomes online. Largely a phenomena of social networking, this is the world we live in whether you like it or not. Of course there are certain people who will endorse anything, but most advertisers know what they’re doing and who they’re working with. That’s why Media Kits and statistics exist. Blogs have taken over magazines, and Snapchat is the new TV for a lot of people. If you want to follow us do so, have an opinion on us fire away, but please, before you bash another blogger or roll your eyes at an another influencer, stop and give credit where it’s due or at least do your research first.

Joanne xoxo