Instagram has become a much-needed element in our lives, but we tend to forget that it’s inanimate — it’s just another app on our smartphone.
When Instagram came into existence, no one really thought it could become a workplace for many and Influencer Marketing could ever be a profession. To put things in perspective, when influencers or celebrities endorse products from various companies, trying to market the products to the public, that’s when that person becomes a part of Influencer Marketing.
Just like most of you, I am also one of the “Igers.” I fall into that category where I simply post on Instagram for fun, but there is a category that posts to influence, and that’s what I’m going to tell you about.
Before I commence, I would clear the air by stating that I have nothing against the many Instagram Influencers existing and my opinions are purely against the certain practices being followed!
What inspired me into writing about influencers is the very recent news that must have caught your eye: an ice-cream truck owner asked Instagram influencers to pay double when they were expecting free ice-cream in exchange for posts on their respective Instagram pages.
Asking For Freebies A Good Practice?
When we work, we mostly have a symbiotic relationship with people around; the employer pays us a salary for the work we have done. This basic rule is also applicable on Instagram, but influencers tend to add extra rules and think it’s their birthright to freebies.
Joe Nicchi, an ice-cream vendor in Los Angeles, was expected to do the same; people wanted free ice-cream for posts featuring his ice-cream truck. Instead of falling for the fame bait, he decided to go against it. While I believe in the barter system and money or gifts in exchange for posts is always a good idea, it needs to be pitched to the right people.
An ice-cream vendor or anyone else might not benefit from this kind of a deal. Additionally, influencers often expect freebies, which can go against the whole concept of ‘give and take’ relationship and this is where they stand in a negative light.
Sponsored Or Not Sponsored?
This point has two parts: about sponsored content and why companies collaborate with influencers. As the basic source of income for Instagram influencers is collaborating with various companies, it comes with the ethical responsibility of informing their followers that they have done so.
Instagram has a feature wherein you can mention posts as sponsored and an “In partnership with so and so” disclaimer appears on the post. However, I have often come across posts that are definitely sponsored but that is never mentioned. Even various celebrities follow the drill by not mentioning whether or not their posts are sponsored.
Giving you a real-life example, we at Fossbytes recently conducted a OnePlus 7 Pro giveaway and wished to get it promoted via a couple of Instagram influencers who I don’t wish to name. Our deal was simple: they would promote us and in return, we would give them money. What called the deal off was their reluctance to mention the sponsored collaboration on their Instagram and even suggested that various companies don’t want them to do so.
You may ask, why is it needed? The answer to this is that people should ALWAYS be informed about things in a neutral way (and the truth of course!) and influencers tend to go head-over-heels for various brands when, in reality, the products offered are quite average. Even when that doesn’t happen, it’s always the best practice to mention Sponcon (sponsored content).
Even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has set guidelines for influencers trying to make things unbiased. However, not all influencers follow the rules.
Companies have started collaborating with influencers (giving a boom to the influencer market) because we all know it is cheaper and we accept that. What I don’t like is the practice of hiring influencers when they might not really be able to influence the audience in the right way. For instance, as a tech journalist, I have witnessed many companies going for fashion influencers for the promotion of their products. This makes me wonder, “how will a fashion blogger be able to identify the technicalities of the devices, which a tech journalist or a blogger can easily figure out?”
Not that we journalists are completely turned down, but allotting our jobs to fashion influencers seems downright wrong and unfair too.
Fake Influencing, Fake Influencers!
My third point deals with fake influencers! When companies can’t go for an actual influencer to advertise their products, they go for a second option and invent one. I came across this story where an Instagrammer with around 63K followers was all about traveling and reviewing hotels. However, it turned out, the influencer never existed and was a marketing gimmick to tell people how this happens.
This doesn’t stop here: the very (in)famous Fyre scandal is a perfect example of how people were lured into spending money on the apparent huge music festival by various celebrities and influencers with the promise of providing the best-ever 5-star experience. Instead, people who signed up for it got tents and cheese sandwiches, becoming one of the biggest scams of 2017 and an inspiration for a Netflix documentary.
Influencers Are Victims Too!
While whatever I previously wrote was my opinion on the Instagram influencer practices affecting the users, it also has an impact on the influencers themselves. The urge to become famous Instagrammers and the pressure to do so is something every other IG blogger faces. Not only do they influence us wrongly, but also themselves!
The idea of me sitting behind my MacBook Air and giving out an opinion is not to create a mockery of Instagram influencers but to let you know how these unfair practices have an adverse effect on us.
Just as we want journalists to not indulge in yellow journalism or spread fake news, we, similarly, want the influencers to influence us and not deviate us. We need the truth (be it good or ugly), so that following them is never a mistake and they stay true to what they are called.
P.S. I adore all the Instagram Influencers out there and Kudos to what you all are doing, just do it with love and care.