Why 'Influencer' Shouldn't Be A Dirty Word

The world of Instagram influencers can be a lonely place. You’re working on your own, from home, most days. Without colleagues, without an HR department and without a boss to delegate tasks or help you learn. And then you scroll through Twitter and unearth a barrage of mockery towards what it is that you do for a living.

The Stigma

Sometimes this abuse hits the mainstream media - remember the Elle Darby debate? I once got caught up in a Twitter storm myself, attempting to defend another blogger who had asked an Irish hotel for a sponsored stay. For days, I was bombarded with people telling me to ‘get a real job’ and telling me that my chosen industry was a sham. ‘Influencer’ gets treated like it’s a dirty word on a daily basis, mainly due to a lack of understanding on what it is that we actually do.

Some bloggers and content creators feel the stigma of the term ‘influencer’ so much that they try to avoid using it whenever possible. They may have been the subject of scorn themselves, being told ‘you don’t influence me’ by strangers online. It’s hard to quantify exactly how much influence bloggers and Instagrammers have over people in general – it’s dependent on factors such as your online activity, your age and how susceptible you are to all forms of marketing - but there are plenty of statistics to back up the fact that influencer marketing works. Brands are increasingly working with more and more influencers for a reason.

Influencing for Good

There’s more to this new world of Instagram and blogging, however. ‘Influencer’ doesn’t just mean influencing people to buy something or to go to a particular holiday destination. Instagram users and blog readers can also be influenced in a variety of positive ways by the people that they follow.

Consider the people who are using Instagram to speak out and raise awareness of important issues. You have @girlvscancer talking frankly, raising money and generally offering support for anyone facing cancer. Then there’s @beaniegigi who is campaigning to make upskirting a criminal offence in the UK. Many high profile influencers have recently spoken out about reducing the amount of plastic that we use, and if there is a natural disaster somewhere in the world, you’d be surprised at how many people use the ‘swipe up’ on their Instagram Stories to direct their followers to donate aid.

Having a large audience on social media can, and often is, used for good. There are influencers with huge followings who are talking about body positivity, LGBT+ rights, global issues and feminism on a daily basis. Many of the people that you follow on Instagram influence us all to make positive decisions, sometimes without us even realising. Think back to why you switched to a reusable water bottle or why you bought a dress from an ethical brand rather than from the high street – chances are, you were ‘influenced’.

Brains for Business

Then there are the inspirational women who have used their success as influencers to forge lucrative career paths. People like @me_and_orla who is running a business where she turns over a six-figure profit. This isn’t just down to taking pretty pictures and posting them online. Sara runs a series of e-courses, hosts two popular podcasts, speaks at events all over the world and is currently writing her first book. She, and others like her, offer aspirational advice that can help others to achieve similar goals.

Anyone with a genuine following that they have worked for on Instagram should be an inspiration to others. Running a successful Instagram account isn’t as easy as taking a photograph and uploading it. Even those influencers who focus solely on their social media feeds are running lucrative businesses that they have put a lot of work into. Those who also have blogs are writers, as well as photographers. They’re also accountants, editors, marketing managers and stylists. Being an influencer isn’t a Monday-to-Friday nine-to-five job; it’s a career choice that doesn’t offer weekends off, holiday pay, maternity pay or sick pay. To make a living as an influencer, you have to work hard, often late into the night, forfeiting your social life.

Next time you feel embarrassed to tell someone that you are an influencer, put your chin up, look them in the eye and tell them exactly what you do. Don’t treat the word in a negative way; embrace it and be proud of your chosen career.

Words by Emma Lavelle.

Image by @blackmobil for Michael Kors.