A common misconception of blogging has been increasingly pervasive in the rise of platforms like Instagram and YouTube where brands are engaging influencers to curate content to raise brand awareness and utilise the powerful notion of word of mouth. As the influencer’s audience grows, so do the opportunities that flow as part and parcel of this broader network and odd phenomenon of social media. Most of the time brands are willing to send products (with or without commission) to influencers to advertise their products and stipulate certain guidelines regarding when they want the photos published or how they want the photos presented. Many readers that lie on the receiving end of this brand and influencer collaborative scheme are now seeing the inherent ethical concerns associated with influencers being paid to curate content that may, to an extent, have a sense of disconnection to the creator’s personal aesthetic. It has the effect of accentuating the lack of artistic honesty prevalent in this novel arena and, quite ironically, undermining the influencer’s amount of influence.
So where can the line be drawn, or should there be no surface on which the line can be drawn in the first place?
It’s fairly common now to see little #ad hashtags or disclaimers at the bottom of posts claiming the validity of the influencer’s opinions on the products simply by virtue of them saying so, even though they’re being paid to review the product. It’s an entirely unchartered field where the distinction between creating beautiful content (simply because the individual has a passion to) and the business-oriented notion of commissioned work (where these powerful influencers are under the thumb of big brands to say what people want to hear, e.g. ‘I love these shoes; buy them’) is entirely blurred. It’s indicative of a shift in mindset that had not arisen back when Instagram wasn’t what it was now. There is now a certain distrust associated with seeing content on one’s Instagram feed where a single thought lingers at the back of one’s mind, ‘are they being paid to say this?’ It’s that constant reassurance of artistic integrity and loyalty to one’s personal brand that provokes the ‘don’t treat me like I’m dumb’ response that has accumulated in the numerous ‘I love this bag’ posts that have flooded one’s newsfeed for the past few months. People are intelligent and marketing schemes need to evolve from merely utilising networking influence to promote awareness, and consider underlying problems that are weakening the fabric and structure upon which this social media phenomenon is built.
This isn’t to say that content creators shouldn’t be compensated for their creative process or labour in curating content (bless Shini, who did a dismantling 12 plus hour shoot yesterday). Notwithstanding the fact that I believe strongly artists should receive what they deserve, there is now a tendency to jump onto bandwagons for the sake of benefits rather than the underlying driving force that has maintained the careers of so many, evidenced by factors such as longevity and outreach. It’s the often glossed over components, such as an authentic passion for something, which are the most crucial to creative work. It takes more than just a #promo4promo to get yourself out there and paradoxically, works that are cherished the most are often unnoticed, and those that are spontaneous and unplanned end up speaking to thousands of souls. So as good as it is to be strategic (especially in the business of blogging where competitiveness has, to an extent, displaced the idea of partaking in a community of co-inspiring) it’s vital to be grounded by thing that makes you tick and be reminded of the reason everything started in the first place, and that very thing should never be money.