I wrote an Instagram post about this on International Day of Happiness as it was something that had been playing on my mind for a while, and as I cautiously hovered over the ‘Post’ button realised that my new hesitant nature was exactly why this post was so important.
When I first joined Instagram it was primarily a place for photographs. With that in mind, it meant that naturally most people using the app were creatives. People found an outlet in having a space to take beautiful artistic photographs and collate them into one beautiful album sharing light hearted, every day captions.
Then, as Instagram got bigger it became a wonderful platform for some really important topics. People began to use it to document things such at PND, baby loss, living with cancer, mental health challenges and like wildfire it became this incredible place to share all walks of life, giving people online communities of their own that they could relate to and feel understood.
I have enjoyed, and still enjoy both the above. I absolutely love beautiful photos (despite not being the best at getting out to capture them!) as well as using my space to raise awareness for Huntington’s disease which is so close to my heart. From sharing our story, I have had 100’s of conversations with families and friends affected by the disease who feel compelled to message for a plethora of reasons. Isn’t that incredible? Just because of this one little app.
In recent years, and potentially the most discussed development of Instagram, advertisement has become part of it. In previous years, advertisements were done (and are still done) on the telly and in magazines, until recently brands realised the power of social media and the connection between people via it. Seeing an outfit on a mum you follow rather than a model on the catwalk brought something different. You could begin to picture yourself in that item. A chair in a living room you see lived in. A holiday destination with an actual family staying there rather than the ‘jump and splash’ style ads you see on the telly. Influencer marketing was born.
Before I go any further, I just want to put it out there that like many, I think ‘influencer’ is the wankiest term out there. I’m a mum, a 3 time business owner, a trained primary school teacher and I’m on Instagram. If a brand wants to work with me and I feel it’s someone I should work with, I am advertising for them. It see it quite simply as a job. In the meantime, if someone likes the way I shave my toe hairs, that’s just the same as your mate asking what you shave ya toes with. Influencer sounds like putting someone ‘under the influence’, like intoxicating them out of their control. I am still a consumer in this space and not one person has ever influenced me beyond my control. They have however inspired me, whether it be through fashion, interiors, beauty or raising an important issue. But never ‘influenced’.
People began to be approached by brands and asked if they’d like to work with them….and I’m going to say the rest is history as since then strict guidelines have come into play to regulate the process, which is fantastic. It has evolved into a proper business, so in the same way my businesses have to follow certain rules, so should social media advertising. I tried to avoid discussing it for a while (on one occasion losing my rag) thinking it wasn’t a big deal compared to some of the other things going on in my life, especially as I was one who followed the rules. But in hindsight I’m learning it’s evolved into an industry now, so these days I welcome the discussion. I think actually the best thing we can do is talk and welcome questions as otherwise a divide will continue to grow. There is nothing to be hidden why not talk about it?
Some dislike Instagram being used in this way. To me, advertising is everywhere you go. Anyone has the opportunity to come on Instagram and make something of it but I must say, in my eyes it truly is each to their own. If someone doesn’t like being sold to, that’s their prerogative. I respect that, no beef here. But what I will say, is it is here to stay, and there isn’t going to be any getting away from it so the best advice I can give is to choose to follow people who you like and if you hate advertisements that much, maybe throw away your telly, never go out again, don’t read magazines and by lord don’t go on social media haha
My experience with advertising is in it’s early days but I thought I’d share my personal approach to it, so you can hear it ‘straight from the horses mouth’.
In the last 6 months I have been contacted by more brands than ever before. On average 3-4 a week. What used to feel like alien territory is beginning to feel a little less so. I feel like I’m finding what works for me and the family and where I sit in terms of being mindful about it; that generally being that I like to try and ensure where possible there’s a bit of give and take, whether that’s through giveaways, competitions or simply passing the experience on.
On average I turn down about 90% of brands that approach me, not because I don’t need the money (because boy we could use it) but because they don’t sit right. Just this week I was contacted by a gorgeous kids swimwear brand. I looked at the stuff and as beautiful as it all was, it was way out of the price range we could afford for kids swimwear. I could have thought sod it, why shouldn’t the kids have nice stuff (like we are often accused of doing) but I knew that wasn’t the way I worked so I politely emailed back explaining the above whilst complimenting the gorgeous range and wishing them well in finding a more suited person to work with. I was absolutely delighted when I got an email back to say she was also a follower and it was nice to see me only work with brands that felt right.
This is just my approach. I am not saying this is THE approach. As I always say, ‘each to their own’.
I’ve a few things in the pipeline at the moment, some paid and some unpaid but all things that I feel have great value. One product was a gift from a new brand and supports sleep and mental health, and they were happy with my request to give one away which was great! One is supporting a fantastic new care company where instead of a fee we are working together to run a competition giving something special away to someone else in the care sector who deserves a treat. Another was to review a restaurant which we couldn’t make so instead of turning it down I asked if I could run a competition for someone to get to go in my place. Then, on the flip side we’ve accepted a press trip which is coming up this weekend. I am looking forward to sharing all about it for the company which looks fantastic whilst enjoying time with the family just before the boys head away on their cycle (hoping for a bit of downtime for Mr Bee’s Knees). Lastly, I have been lucky enough to continue my paid partnership thus far with Very who have been a fantastic brand to work for and who I love.
Alongside this work I continue fundraising for research into Huntington’s disease, whilst running my companies (online and offline) and doing my best to raise a family.
I’m working to get a balance. Like in life, it’s give and take. I truly believe in all walks of life you have to give as much as you take.
It’s hard to appear genuine amongst a sea of sh*t, I do get that. There are some irresponsible ones (mostly reality stars) who give the whole thing a bad name, but for the most part many are following the rules and giving back where they can (they just don’t broadcast it all the time). When I advertise for a company I treat it like any other job I have. I take it seriously and see it as my responsibility to represent them in the best way.
One thing we ALL know is that influencer marketing is not up there with jobs in the NHS and so forth. Nobody is at any point claiming it is. My sister is a full time paramedic and at no point do I feel that marketing for a brand on Instagram trumps that. One thing influencer marketing isn’t is overworked and underpaid. I do agree with that side of frustration, it’s a fantastic job and after starting up 3 companies from scratch I can tell you, it’s a pleasure to actually be paid. I am very lucky to be able to do it, that much I do know. I don’t see every point made by someone to be wrong, there are many things I do appreciate and can see both sides.
I’ve been called a lot in my time on Instagram, generally via DM or threads. Faceless and nameless. I believe I’m one of the lucky ones but a few still creep in and of course they can hurt. I think the one’s that discuss mum are the worst. It’s absolutely your prerogative to stay or go. I totally respect that. Some days nasty messages will come at the most testing time when I’m in the middle of life’s challenges and I don’t feel it’s ok to use the excuse ‘you put yourself out there’. To me, that’s the same as saying it’s ok to stick your middle finger up and someone talking to you because they opened their mouth. You just never know what is happening behind closed doors. After all, we know Instagram is the best bits.
I definitely don’t expect everyone to like me. I’ve not grown up in a world where everyone wants to be my best friend so I sure don’t expect it on Instagram, but if you feel that way, free yourself from me. You have freedom to live too, just like I do? I wouldn’t hang around with someone who I hated in real life, so there’s no reason to do it on Instagram.
I am so grateful for this platform and have had so many great discussions with people (both who have agreed and disagreed with me at times). I just can’t fathom this direction it’s going where if you make a buck you’re a a bad guy? It’s a very British thing. The model on ITV advertising diarrhoea tablets isn’t really passionate about having the sh*ts is she? Yet on Instagram most good people are working with brands they love and getting slammed for it. I believe everyone has the right to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that they wish to, and likewise everyone has the right to walk away if it doesn’t sit right with them, and even engage in ‘healthy’ debate about things. There’s just a line in my book.
This post has not been written as an attack. For a long time now I’ve yearned to open a discussion where everyone can have a (diplomatic) voice. I mean, my bag would be a live chat directly in the hope to hold healthy discussion in a face to face split screen. Am I being too optimistic? It doesn’t need to be divided. We can talk and understand this better? That’s how I’d try and resolve it. Good old fashioned face to face conversation. I know wholeheartedly I’m one of the good guys so I’ve nothing to hide in terms of chatting it out. I think it’s all just so new and people don’t understand how it all works all the time and that must be bloody frustrating. I can empathise with that.
Can we all just give each other a little more freedom to live though? Continue healthy debate, open up intelligent conversation, challenge the things we don’t sit right but in a polite way? I promise you ads are not ALL bad if you can see them for exactly what they are. Adverts. Pick out those you trust. Using ‘stuff’ as the measure for happiness is dangerous, and there is always going to be someone with more. I see those with more than me and think, fair play. It doesn’t validate me and in my view it shouldn’t validate you either, neither did it before I was on Instagram.
I hope this blog post came across in the way intended. To share and discuss, openly and honestly my feelings about the way things are going. I’m happy to answer any questions if it helps anyone understand this industry better so feel free to comment. Begin the onslaught of abuse! hahaha I’m kidding, please don’t destroy me!