Browsing LinkedIn recently I saw a post about Captain Tom which while quite rightly applauded the man for his achievements then went on to say: "Influencers step aside." Hundreds of comments on this post were derisory about influencers, basically either saying that influencers are vacuous freeloading wannabes or that influencers did nothing worthy. One comment said that being an influencer was what women did now Page 3 wasn't a thing.
I've always hated the word influencer but basically that is what I, and many of my colleagues are. I'm a trained, qualified journalist who worked in print for many years and made the switch to online content writing almost ten years ago to be able to work from home. After my youngest was diagnosed with autism this proved to be a really good decision.
When I started I described myself as a blogger and I generally had to explain to people (or at to least anyone over 18) what a blog was.
Then the term "content creator" became popular, which I quite like because I do more than blog. I create content for a variety of sites as well as my own two websites. For example I write informational articles for a huge American resource, New Life Outlook, about menopause, diabetes and fibromyalgia, all of which I have experience of.
I make videos for clients, post pictures and of course, write. It is proper job, I am registered with HMRC and have to do a tax return annually.
Yes, I get to experience some fabulous events and am sent products but I have to declare everything to HMRC as they all count as payment. They are not free. I pay for them with hours of work and decades of experience. I also have to follow advertising rules and make it clear that the item has been sent to me free in return for an honest review.
One of the commenters on the LinkedIn post said that influencers are selfish and only do things which benefit themselves. Check out Team Honk which is just one initiative where influencers have raised an enormous amount of money for Comic Relief with sponsored walks, dances and more.
I have taken part in some of Team Honk's initiatives over the years and have twice been to learn more about some of the UK charities Comic Relief supports including the New Horizon Youth Centre in London.
I'm not virtue signalling here but I wanted to point out it's not all bikinis in Dubai. In fact I've never been to Dubai and as far as I know have only ever once posted a pic of me in a bikini and that was part of an initiative to show real bodies on social media. My body is very real after having 7 children! I could have easily airbrushed out the bulge in my stomach where my bikini top digs in but that is the reality of my body.
One commenter said they didn't know what an influencer did and added that they didn't care.
For those of you who are still wondering, we are a branch of marketing. I work with PR companies, the government, brands and charities promoting their work, services and products. I am bound by advertising guidelines and you are going to get a more honest view from me that those ridiculous perfume adverts that imply that if you spray yourself with that product you will become slim and beautiful, wear a ballgown all day and get to snog a James Bond lookalike on a yacht. Spoiler - you won't.
The idea of advertising through bloggers and the like was originally that consumers would be more likely to trust real people living real lives. I have written about my struggles with health conditions, life with seven children, having a super tight budget and my faith. I am real. You can trust me. I am not airbrushed.
I am one of thousands of "influencers" who work from our kitchen tables, home offices, the sofa. Some of us have kids, some don't. We are all ages and all shapes and sizes.
Many dedicate their days to supporting, educating and entertaining those with both physical and mental health conditions, autism and more. They tackle parenting issues and pet problems offering the benefit of their experience. This support for lonely or isolated new parents and in fact pretty much anyone missing human contact is especially useful during this pandemic. They offer inspiration for food, with recipes, meal planning tips and restaurant reviews, especially valuable for people cooking for or following a medically restricted diet.
You can get ideas for DIY and design. Plan your wedding or another celebration, a date or a day out using ideas from online content creators. Get budgeting tips and save money with frugal living experts.
We are a million miles away from the posing z-list wannabes that nowadays we are being lumped in with. Every time you post a nasty comment about "influencers" you may well be destroying a little more of our industry.
Please, before writing us off take some time to think about the impact of your words in the way most of us content creators do.