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Influence for Sale

In a recent New Yorker article called A History of the Influencer, from Shakespeare to Instagram I learned about Ralphie Waplington, Britain’s youngest social media influencer, who has been a model for baby clothing and other children’s items pretty much since he was born. Ralphie has more than 20,000 instagram followers and family aren’t even allowed to post pics of him without permission because the photos may be off brand.

Um … what?

Bellwether, Tastemaker, or Fraud?

OK, let’s back up for a sec. “Influencers” are people - typically with a large audience online - who are paid by brands to endorse their wares. This is a largely unregulated industry and it really does influence what we choose to buy and consume. Influencer marketing became a whole thing in this industry when we all started buying online and companies realized we’re more likely to buy what people we trust tell us they liked.

What a time to be alive, non?

Trust or Treason?

The article, which is fascinating, and worth a read if you’re at all interested in social media and its impact on our lives today, talks about our fear of being manipulated and our constant distrust of the world around us. It links Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde’s theories on influence to election hackers, fake news, and how we accept that inauthenticity is simply a part of our lives.

But is all influencer marketing about manipulation and deceit? What about the celebrity who attaches their name to a cause that promotes equality? Heck, Canadians care more about the environment in this generation because of David Suzuki and Al Gore made us all take a serious look at climate change.

Faith or Foolishness?

We trust people we know. That trust can be used for the greater good. Heck, even Laurence Scott, the author or the article above recognized this when he wrote about this recent tweet from the Pope.

“Pope Francis called the Virgin Mary “the first ‘influencer,’” encouraging others to follow her #blessed example by spreading the word of God.”

So, influencer marketing - like everything on earth - is neither truly good nor evil and perhaps thinking critically about the media we consume, and its impact on our decisions, is what we should have been doing all along.

The Wrap Up

What do you think about influencer marketing? Check back in a couple weeks and learn about a brand we recently created and we’ll tell you exactly why we had no qualms helping promote one incredible influencer. Who knows, maybe your company could benefit from hiring an influencer and, if it’s for the greater good, we’d be happy to help!

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