These days who wouldn’t want to be an influencer? Free product to endorse, traveling to amazing locations to share pictures and videos with followers on someone else’s dime, and hopefully, money and fame. For businesses, influencers help bring products and services front and center to their intended audience and sometimes unintended. Influencers have a unique opportunity to bring content to niche audiences. They have the time to interact with followers and many make it a point to give honest reviews about products they use and their experiences with them. If they happen to be skiing through the French Alps wearing someone’s brand, it’s easy and effective brand promotion. While there are many that have really taken brands to the next level, there are some downsides, because unfortunately, not all influencers are created equal. Some have done some not-great-things in the name of influencing where we need to ask, what are the responsibilities that influencers have while promoting brand awareness, and what are the consequences?
When an influencer takes a photo or video in a beautiful place, it most certainly adds to their Instagram profile. However, what happens when an influencer inappropriately uses their influence to justify walking through a dedicated conservation area without expertise or following caution signs? Influencers have gone to beautiful fields of flowers just to pluck poppies out of the ground. In California, poppies are the state flower and are illegal to pick. If caught doing this on state property, one could be looking at a $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail! The consequences of these actions are not just based on law though, protected state parks or not, these actions can also have a negative effect on the ecosystem and are not so easy to rectify.
Someone could do these things out of ignorance, but with influencing it can still create issues for a brand. The same could be said for attitude, and treatment toward others, because these things are also on display. An influencer’s audience will include a range of ages, many of whom are very impressionable. For good or ill, influencers hold a lot of weight in the minds of others. If one shows disrespect to another or is hurtful in any way, this may impart to followers that it’s ok to act in the same manner. The problem is, what an influencer says could reflect poorly on the brand they represent, resulting in getting dropped from the brand and ruining the chances of doing the same work again in the future. What happens on the internet, tends to stay on the internet… forever. Some may forget what an influencer has done but if it’s egregious enough, it will follow them around even outside of social media.
As the saying goes “with great power, comes great responsibility” and the same should be said for influencers. Yes, influencing involves selling, but it also involves people who buy into who that influencer is, what they stand for, and what they do. It’s important for influencers to understand the power they hold. They have a responsibility to display kindness, respect, and compassion. Brands also show us who they are when they pick their influencers and if they find someone representing their brand in a way that could paint them in a negative light, it would behoove them to move on.
No one is perfect. People are going to make mistakes, but influencers do have the responsibility to know their audience and be careful about the choices they make. It’s not just one person making a mistake on their own, thousands of people could be watching and want to do the exact same thing. Influencers do have their place in this world, and hopefully, they will use their power for good.