This blog post was originally published in partnership with GrasshoppHer. Written by Rebecca Chen, Anna Hermann, and Sheryl Lawrence.
Influencers are increasingly influencing every facet of life
The influencer marketing industry was worth $8 billion in 2019, and is projected to grow to $15 billion by 2022. The reason it continues to grow is because people are listening.
According to Takumi, one in four consumers in the U.S. (28%), UK (24%) and Germany (23%) say they are more likely to source news updates and opinions from social media influencers rather than established news outlets.
How are they sharing news and their opinion?
What does this mean for influencers? Should they be using their platforms to spread information about social movements, like the Black Lives Matter movement or the Me Too movement, or should they stay quiet on the topics? If they do share information about these social movements or anything going on in the world, how should they? In the traditional sense of infographics or in the way they see fit?
Both Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian encouraged people to vote in the way they see fit by posting provocative pictures of themselves with the caption telling people to go vote. The crazy part is that it worked! According to MediaPost, Vote.org visitors increased by 1500% after Kylie posted bikini pictures with the voting link on her Twitter and Instagram. That’s 48,000 visitors.
What consumers want vs. what brands are comfortable with
Despite the fact that consumers increasingly agree that social media influencers should use their platforms to discuss current affairs and everyday activism, the majority of marketers are still anxious about working with an influencer who is vocal about social and political issues.
Case in point: L’Oreal dropped their first transgender influencer, Munroe Bergdorf, immediately after she spoke out on racism following the Charlottesville events back in 2017. (The irony of hiring a black transgender influencer and not expecting them to have any views on racism or systemic discrimination….)
It all came full circle this summer when L’Oreal posted a public statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Bergdorf was rightfully outraged and pointed out the hypocrisy, which led to a public demand for an apology from L’Oreal towards Munroe. L’Oreal has since hired Bergdorf back as an influencer. However, brands should be taking note — had L’Oreal just embraced Munroe for her entire authentic self from the onset, this debacle could have been avoided completely.
In certain industries, you cannot separate content creation from politics. Not only are consumers looking for influencers to have viewpoints, they will also actively punish you for trying to sweep certain political conversations under the rug. In a recent New York Times article, travel influencers were disparaged for travelling to Saudi Arabia and promoting the overlooked beauty of the country, while completely ignoring its politics.
In response to an Instagram photo that the travel influencer @Lyss (following: 1.8 million) posted, one user commented: “Yeah, let’s just forget about the discrimination against women, the lack of a few basic human rights, and the corruption. As long as they have beautiful tourist attractions, it doesn’t really matter, right?”
How Brands Can #ActNow
Reminder to brands: when you partner with an influencer, you’re partnering with a human. Humans have real points of view and are sometimes messy and vulnerable, and it’s those very things that make them attractive to consumers.
Brands can be more discerning about identifying influencers to partner with and really view them as true brand ambassadors and partners. Once the influencer has been selected, however, brands should be prepared to stick with them. In the same way that Nike stands by its athletes – which consumers have come to appreciate – brands should be prepared to stand by their influencers. After all, you never know who is going to become the next Katie Couric.