If you follow my Instagram you'll be aware of my passion and dedication to the crazy, digital world of 'Influencer Marketing'. I dedicated my Masters Thesis around the changing landscape of Fashion PR, with Bloggers & 'Influencers' becoming a new wave of PR stars. So, it goes without saying, I tuned into the new Panorama doc 'Million Pound Selfie Sell Off' with a keen ear and eye to how they would navigate the topic.
(pic courtesy of BBC)
The effects of social media are more prevalent than ever before and it's important to always keep this at the forefront of our minds, as users, brand professionals and as consumers of brands.
With the new guidelines introduced by the Competition & Marketing Authority (CMA) recently, surrounding the transparency and regulations around Influencer Marketing on social media, there seems to have been an immediate change in the behaviours of Bloggers (the ones I follow anyway). With a new threat of court action instated, Influencers now have even more reason to be honest and upfront about the nature their posts.
So, the documentary. There were certain aspects of the documentary that disappointed me a little and are a bit of a sticking point in the reliability of their narrative around the industry. The use of Zara McDermott, 'famous' for appearing for all of 10 minutes on last years Love Island, as their chosen example of an 'influencer' left me feeling like the industry wasn't being portrayed as the community I see as it emulating. It was discussed that brands use 'influencers' to sell products, yes although a true statement, the likes of ex reality star 'celebs', to me, don't represent the more established Bloggers that have put in time and dedication into building a like minded audience. These Bloggers are the personalities that brands are utilising in their PR strategies. Don't get me wrong the use of reality stars in ads, marketing and PR is still going strong but in effect, are their audience a targeted one? I would argue not. BUT, having said this, I have to give it to her, she did come across sincere when she stated she is responsible with her partnerships. Maybe I am alone in my feelings here. I'll be doing a blog post soon about the different terms and category of influencer I see the industry as possessing very soon (if you are at all interested, I hope you are!).
My second topic of questioning is, who the fuck is Morgs? I am quite obviously of a whole other (older) generation to this particular YouTube star, but his behaviours come across incredibly erratic and I worry for his young audience, especially as witnessed in the documentary, a young boy is influenced enough by 'Morgs' to spend £30 on what seemed to liken to a kids gambling site which CANNOT be legal surely? A side issue for another time, but something about the report made for anxious viewing.
(pic courtesy of BBC)
Theres no doubt that the documentary has highlighted issues surrounding the industry which can only be a good thing. They included several insights from several areas of the industry, giving a balanced view from all sides. The inclusion of Gleam, the biggest talent management agency for 'social stars' allowed an inside view. The inclusion of regulatory bodies also allowed for the documentary to put across an ethical and unbiased insight into the effects of the industry and the professionals within it. As Dominic Smales, CEO at Gleam Futures hinted at, the industry has seen a 'sizemic shift' in recent years and this only likely to develop more and more with the advances of technology and social media. This begs the question, do tech companies hold the power over the future of influencer marketing? They are the ones developing the apps and platforms for 'influencers' to build careers upon and for brands to utilise in their marketing and PR; so I could be argued, yes they do hold a majority stake of responsibility when it comes the processes and activity that is hosted on their platforms. Do the likes of Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat need to do more when it comes to 'hidden marketing'? Brands have used social media as a loophole to the strict regulations and guidelines in place in the traditional media space but this is likely to be eradicated through the realisation and implementation of stricter rules governed by the CMA.
Without question, they'll be plenty more where this comes from as the industry continues to develop at rapid speeds. They'll probably be another set of regulations introduced within the year I reckon and with it another documentary of some form. The true test is how Influencers react and adapt to these legislations. It's been refreshing to see that most Bloggers/Influencers I personally engage with are happy (although sometimes a little put out by, understandably, as some guidelines do seem rather strict) to disclose their relationships with the brands they work with. I for one, respect them even more for doing so.
If you haven't already, go give the Panorama documentary a watch, even if you're just someone who follows the odd Blogger, it makes for an interesting viewing. Click the top image and it'll take you right to it!
Slight Side note:
I am planning to do a series of posts about my Masters research; Fashion Bloggers: The New Faces of Fashion PR, where I will be exploring the topic of Influencer Marketing and going into more depth about my research and my thoughts, feelings and insights into the ever changing world of Bloggers & Influencers with Fashion. For now there is a video on my Portfolio that I did in collaboration with AccessEd & Brightside, it showcases my area of Masters study to 1st Year University Students and touches on the subject, if you wanted to give it a watch.