The Stigma Surrounding the Word INFLUENCER – Spill-the-Tea

Spill-the-Tea Tuesday is a weekly series about all things to do with Influencer Marketing. While I’m a content creator, I try to write these posts from both sides of the story, the creator and the brands they represent. On this week’s edition of spill-the-tea, we’re chatting about the STIGMA surrounding the word INFLUENCER.

Is “Influencer” a cringey word? Ahhh…the ever-changing language of social media marketing!

When I first started creating content in 2010, I was a Blogger. A “Mom” Blogger at that. It was new, it was exciting, folks were interested in the stories I told about my life and then “MOMMY BLOGGER” became a bit of a shunned word… it had a negative connotation and I wasn’t quite sure why. 

I transitioned to “Lifestyle Blogger” as the fact was that being a “mom” was only part of who I was. I wrote on a number of different topics from going back to school, divorce, travel, friendships, and so on. Then, as more folks were reading, companies started reaching out to work with me and next thing you know, brands were sending me products to try and I was getting paid to write articles! As a single mom, this addition to my income was AMAZING!

Enter all of the social media platforms and INFLUENCER was the new term for those getting paid to post branded content.

Becoming an Influencer

Most influencers don’t set out to be influencers! We started by creating content on blogs, YouTube, TikTok etc… because we’re creative people who found an outlet that was enjoyable! For most of us there wasn’t really a plan to influence people, we were just having fun and it simply came with the territory. Basically, most of us fell into it by accident but what an incredible accident it turned out to be as we’re able to turn something we love into a viable business!

Isn’t that the dream… to do something you love AND get paid for it?!

When I first started using the word Influencer to describe what I do, I found it cringe-worthy. “Influencer” felt like you were trying to “convince” someone to do something against their will, but no matter what way I looked at it, the term worked. It reminded me of the shampoo ad from decades before, “she told two friends and then she told two friends and then so on and so on”. Influencer Marketing is simply word-of-mouth marketing and in this digital age, marketers are looking for those with Influence to help them market their products.

If the shoe fits, wear it.

Sidenote: I’d love to work with a shoe company!

When I dig a little deeper into why there’s such a negative stigma around the word Influencer, I have a few ideas…

Un-aligned Partnerships

When an Influencer and a Brand aren’t aligned, the social media posts come off as insincere and audience trust goes out the window. There are two sides to this…the particular influencer is the wrong person to help market the product, and/or, the marketing campaign itself is poorly planned. A third side is that some products are just CRAP…and no amount of money is worth putting your name behind a crappy product! So, anyone looking at these un-aligned posts (especially if they’ve seen a lot of them), will naturally be turned off by the idea of Influencers as they feel it’s inauthentic. Totally fair!

Bad Pitches

There are UMPTEEN stories from businesses about the pain-in-the-ass influencer who is constantly trying to get free product or services…in some cases, demanding it with “do you know how many followers I have?” It’s the bad apples that spoil the entire barrel! For companies out there bombarded with bad pitches, I can totally see their annoyance and belief that all Influencers want from them is free product or service. (I should talk about crafting a good pitch in a future post!) A bad pitch and demanding/rude influencer is a total turnoff for any company!

Influencer vs. Celebrity

Folks often equate the word Influencer with celebrity. So, me with my 2,400 followers on Instagram, calling myself an Influencer, could cause someone who doesn’t like my style to roll their eyes at me in that “who does she think she is” attitude! I mean, if they’re comparing me to Kim Kardashian, they aren’t wrong! (Keep in mind, Kim and I are on completely different pay scales!) But, here’s the thing… numbers don’t matter and anyone can be an influencer!

Bad pitches, misalignment, lack of understanding about what it is we do can all lead to negativity around the industry but when done properly, creatively and authentically…Influencer Marketing can be positive for both the brand and the Influencer!

Pick a Word – any word!

While the word Influencer itself has stigma attached to it, creatives work to get around it by using terms like Story Teller, Content Creator, Key Opinion Leader, Digital Marketer, Brand Ambassador, and more. But bottom line is, if you’re being paid by a brand to promote a product or service on social media, they’re leveraging your “influence” to market their product and therefore, you’re an Influencer!

The key to making money in the industry, is to be really good at it!

Call yourself whatever you like, but if you’re…

  • Creating thoughtful and engaging content.
  • Staying on top of trends.
  • Studying SEO, analytics and insights.
  • Negotiating contracts.
  • Researching brands.
  • Taking risks.
  • Connecting with your audience.
  • Scheduling content across various social media platforms.
  • Adhering to brand guidelines and ad standards.
  • Giving back to your community.

…then consider yourself an Entrepreneur!

There most definitely is a negative connotation around the word Influencer but from what I can see, Influencer Marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If you’re an Influencer, you’re part of the Marketing Team. You may have started this whole thing by accident, but you’ve worked hard to stay in the game and create a pretty exciting, fun and fulfilling career.

I’m all for embracing the word…and helping to ditch the stigma that surrounds it!