Do Influencers Have A Social Responsibility?
Towards the end of 2015 the Tampon Tax was a hot topic and outrage, quite rightly, ensued. How could there possibly be a tax on a product so integral to a woman’s life? The internet erupted with furious social media posts and a petition was created on Change.org to ‘Stop Taxing Periods’.
Around this time the UK’s most popular beauty Vlogger, Brighton based Zoella, showed her ten million followers what she’d been buying from the shops, which shampoos made her hair the softest and how to bake extra fluffy cupcakes.
Now that I’ve hooked you in with my incredibly cynical introduction, let me rewind a bit. I really enjoy YouTube videos and not only that; I particularly enjoy watching beauty and lifestyle Vloggers.
Before I buy a new beauty product I will often have a look at what is being recommended by ‘Vivianna Does Makeup’, ‘Lily Pebbles’ and of course ‘Zoella’. Anna, Lily and Zoe all have a familiarity to them which make them appear trustworthy, their videos about products feel like a recommendation from a friend rather than a money-grabbing advertisement.
According to data from a study conducted by Research Now, 84% of consumers make purchases after reading about a product or service on a blog. The authority that Vloggers and Bloggers have is so substantial that they are now referred to as Influencers. They are incredibly powerful.
So, do these Influencers have a responsibility to tackle issues bigger than shampoo?
This is a question that has started popping up in the community with other Influencers criticising each other for choosing not to comment on seemingly controversial subjects such as feminism, mental health and politics.
This came to a head when the scandal of sexual abuse claims tore about the YouTube community with underage fans claiming to have been taken advantage of by famous YouTubers. Whilst a number of YouTubers expressed their concern and support for the victims a large number of YouTubers with huge followings stayed silent, causing significant frustration.
And this is not the only issue that Influencer’s have chosen not to address. The recent shootings in America has prompted a #BlackLivesMatter tag on Twitter and has brought many people to discuss how desperately sad the situation is but once again, many have chosen to not comment.
One YouTuber who has been particularly vocal about her frustrations is Grace Victory, tweeting recently “There are so many Influencers and not enough influencing. Use your platform for good. I’ve had enough of designer handbag hauls”. Her followers have responded in agreement with some saying they are ‘disappointed’ and feel ‘let down’ to see many of their favorite people not addressing real life issues.
So why are there so many Influencers choosing to stay away from certain topics?
It could be because of something that has made YouTube/Blogging into a viable career choice, management companies. If you have a big enough audience and therefore influence you can join a management company, which will, as with traditional talent management, put you in touch with brands, get you the best sponsorship deals and help you with other business opportunities such as book deals.
Many Influencers started out back in the day with just themselves and a laptop; it’s not quite like that anymore. Zoella has a team of people behind her managing her squeaky-clean brand, she sells sweet-smelling beauty products and teen novels so perhaps tweeting about political issues would damage this brand?
Is it now the case that management companies keep the Influencers from commenting on ‘risky’ topics in the same way a journalist gets a list of questions not to ask an actress in an interview to avoid any backlash?
Not quite the friend talking to a friend scenario we began with
Whilst I’m not sure how a beauty Vlogger could pepper comments on the gender wage-gap into a video about lipstick, I would like to see Influencers doing more positive influencing.
The simple fact of the matter is that real life issues impact these Influencers too so to hear a Vlogger chatting about her experience of living as a black woman in the UK or to read a blogger talking about their experience of working in a male dominated environment would be brilliant.
Life is as much about the small things in life, like beauty products or baking, as it is about the hardships. So there is, and I think always will be, a place for beauty Vloggers and the like, but with Influencers now being genuine role models I believe it is time for that responsibility to be taken seriously.
The author, Caitlin, is a Brighton based Digital Marketer.
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