My Issues With The Word “Influencer”

Anyone else get a strange taste in their mouth when they hear the word “influencer”? Whether you’re a blogger, vlogger, Instagram model or anything else that involves publishing your own content online, the word “influencer” is bound to cross your path at some stage.

Let me just say this – I’m not a fan of that word.

Yes, I’ve always been pedantic and no, I promise I’m reeeally fun at parties. Really.

Now, I’m not someone who has years of blogging and digital content creating experience on their belt. In fact, I would most definitely call myself a newbie blogger – I’m STILL learning how to Pinterest and I didn’t know what a website’s domain authority was until not so long ago. Nevertheless, I like to think that I’ve learned a fair bit during the few months I’ve been blogging, and there is so much more to it than rose gold everything, fairy lights and makeup hoarding issues. So much more.

“Influence: the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.”

Let’s start with the basics – the definition of the word “influence”. “Influence” originated from the Latin “influere”, which means “into” and “to flow”. It’s not hard to see where the jumping-on-the-bandwagon style connotations of influencing “the masses” came from. Just reading that definition there is already raising so many questions. What is this “capacity” that influencers have and where does it come from? What kind of effect can someone have when they influence another?  How do we quantify or qualify this effect? Aren’t character, development and behaviour inter-related?

So what is it that puts influencers in a position to influence others?

This one is perhaps my biggest issue with calling someone an influencer simply because they may have a decent social media following and choose to work with brands etc etc. Why is it that someone is assumed to have power over the masses if they have the guts to post their opinions online? Why does this power correlate to the size of their follower count? I get it from a stats point of view – the more followers, the more likely that more people will buy into an influencer’s words, right? People aren’t dumb. They’re perfectly capable of making their own decisions and assuming that people will agree with anything their favourite blogger says or hails as a life-changing product is not only presumptuous, but also generalises on a whole new level. Yet as a society we place such high value on the individual and being original. Hmm.

I smell airs of self-importance.

I didn’t start blogging with the intention of influencing people. Now, this might be different for others but blogging is my personal outlet when it comes to creativity, writing and expressing my opinions. Influencing my readers has never been in it for me, and it’s something I definitely don’t want. I don’t want my readers to blindly buy into anything I say and turn against others purely because they disagree with me. If I happen to really enjoy a particular product, I’m going to be honest and write about how much I enjoy it. The same goes for the opposite. My readers buying something that I’ve promoted on my blog doesn’t mean that they’ve been influenced by an influencer. Maybe something I said about the product piqued their curiosity because it was something they’d been looking for, but they made a conscious decision to try it for themselves. If they liked it for the same reasons I did, that’s great! I just think this “me too” effect should be a beneficial secondary consequence of a blogger’s work, rather than the primary objective that the word “influencer” often makes it out to be.

How does money come into it?

I get it. Bloggers and social media are new, innovative marketing platforms that have the ability to target a certain demographic and have a profound impact. I’ve personally done sponsored posts where I’ve received payment in return for promoting something, or I’ve been lucky enough to receive free products/services in exchange for a review. I love it. Firstly, it does wonders for my ego that brands enjoy my content enough to give me the opportunity. Secondly, I get to try all sorts of new things that I would not have known about otherwise.

The issue in this lies in allocating priorities. It’s easy to agree to promoting something you don’t believe in because the brand has agreed to pay you an appetising amount of money. Several agreements later, the influencer’s blog/YouTube channel/platform becomes a walking advertising space where the rent is always higher than the previous brand’s offer.  What happened to creating original content with personal quirks and flavour? How does that get pushed aside so fast in favour of capitalising on something you’ve spent hours building? Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone and there are plenty of genuine, honest content creators who work tirelessly to hone their craft because they’re passionate about their content; if it makes them money, that’s a bonus. As for those who do it for the money – there are many other ways to make big bucks. Blogging is not an easy get-rich-quick scheme – do your research.

At the end of the day, it’s just a word. As much as we hate to admit it, we’re influenced by more things/people in our daily lives than we realise. Nevertheless, words are powerful little things and slapping it on the foreheads of digital content creators is a little tasteless. I also clearly have too much time on my hands to think about these things. I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject or how you feel about it all, whether you’re a blogger or not – let’s get a chat going in the comments below! You go girl.

– J

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23 Comments on “My Issues With The Word “Influencer””

  1. If you have influencer listed anywhere on your blog or profile, I’m automatically leaving. I share things I like in the hopes that it might help someone else, or least make their search easier if they do want to find it. I don’t believe that I hold sway and influence; that means I’m a regular ol’ person, and that’s okay ?

  2. I so agree with EVERYTHING!! I always said that when I started my blog, I never wanted to be the next big influencer. If I can help another through my posts, I’m more than happy. And Pinterest? Seriously, I have no idea. Instagram still eludes me!

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  4. How to make fiends and influence people is the saying I believe…I am ok with the making friends bit the rest Phffff…I am with you ladies I blog as it is fun and I like to share my recipes etc etc..That’s it! Great post 🙂

  5. Super interesting and thought provoking post as always! I have always had a problem with this word giving the impression that someone is in a position of authority over the ‘masses’ who cannot come to their own conclusions, as if the influencer symbolises some greater way of existing. I really do not have a problem with people sharing genuine, honest reviews and recommendations, but pushing a product for the sake of receiving a payment strikes me as kinda silly (plus, most of the time, people see right through it!)

  6. Excellent point. The word “influencer” never irritated me, as much as it puzzled me. I asked myself the same questions you asked, “What gives these people authority to influence the opinions of the masses?”
    If you think about it, I imagine the qualities that make someone a prolific influencer don’t often correlate with the qualities of a wise leader.
    However, this post also serves as a great warning for me. Sometimes I feel pressure to post a lot of pretty pictures and cute sayings on social media to be more like those influencers who always seem to appear flawless and wise. This post reminds me to keep in mind why I started my website in the first place: I want to encourage and help people.

    1. I definitely agree with you there – posting pretty photos and inspirational quotes tends to be the hallmark of “successful” influencers but i’ve just never found satisfaction in that for whatever reason. You do you, girl! Xx

  7. I’m no fan of the word, or the concept it’s become associated with, either… of course, there are plenty of exceptions, but it’s really become kind of become synonymous with sales-y “snake oil” type of content, which sends me running for the digital hills.

  8. You know what else? Public figure. Same people that call themselves influencers are now calling themselves public figures.

Comments and stories welcome!