While blogging is always something that I aspired to do when I worked in the PR/marketing industry, I only started my blog in 2013 as a ‘hobby’. However, I knew that it was something that I wanted to pursue because I had knowledge to share – was that not the aim of a blog? A journalistic-type narrative into your world. I’m the type of person that needs to research everything before I venture into it, especially if I am going to get paid for doing it. So I took a course in Facebook marketing and ‘How to start a blog in 48hrs’, which got me interested in the field.
After seeing my sister Rowena’s blog (www.secretsandstilettos.com) grow, I saw how passion, hard work, confidence and dedication got her to being a successful blogger in South Africa. She started building her followers slowly and organically. Amongst her, are bloggers who are well respected in the industry, by building their brands from the bottom up.
This is authenticity.
When I moved to Dubai in 2016, after having my first child, I saw an opportunity in ‘mummy blogging’, something I didn’t know existed. I was already sharing recipes, ideas and ‘how to’s’ with my friends so it was a natural progression to move into that niche. My instagram followers and blog started growing and I learnt some difficult lessons from the naivety of not having enough experience in this “world”. What I learnt as well is that for some you don’t need to have that much of an ethical bone rather than some chutzpah to be able to sell YOU in a very believable way so that brands will recognize it and pay you the big bucks.
I came to realize quite quickly that the world of blogging is not as glamourous as it looks on an Instagram feed and the development of a thick skin, as in the business world, is paramount for survival. Yes, there are those that will remain authentic and use this platform for the greater good, but then there are those that get taken in by the limelight and stop at nothing to achieve the fame and fortune – even if it is copying or buying fake followers to feed the desire or because who needs ethics when you can fake it for lucrative reasons off course?
For the first time, South African bloggers, Candice Lee Kannemeyer (@CandiceLeeKan) and Leigh van den Berg (@lipglossgirl) are shaking up the influencer industry by taking measures to expose the “fakers”. Having a ‘specialist global influencer marketing agency’ interested in their project, this should set the benchmark for the world to follow.
In an interview with a South African radio station, PowerFM987, van den Berg discussed her decision to explore the world of fake followers.
What was interesting is she mentioned exactly what my sentiments were with regards to spending time and money on an education and then fakers sucking up adspend because well, they can! Leigh also mentioned that fake followers could command up to R20 000 (5 000AED) for 5 posts on Instagram.
Brands think that they’re getting value but they’re not. Obviously this now puts pressure on the legal industry to come up with ways to govern the industry. When questioned about how brands don’t know that they’re being duped, “Some brands just don’t understand social media as yet”, Leigh concluded. PR companies are under pressure as well by their clients to sign with the latest influencer who has garnered 100k followers from a “buy followers now” site.
After attending the PR Pressure conference in Dubai in February this year, the take away was that agencies need to become au fait with being ethical in the industry, and that includes calling out fake influencers.
You see, PR professionals are the gatekeepers.
My background as a lecturer in Public Relations in South Africa, showed me the value of the PR professional as key to shaping a brand, furthermore a course in ethics is mandatory for PR students. It is just as important for companies now to invest in communication professionals to save their bottom…line.
PR is defined as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and their publics” (PRSA). How do we justify the strategy involved in escalating a brands value by posting to millions of fake users who will not buy the product? Is that not the aim of the game? Or as competition increases, is the deadline to “find an influencer collaboration” more significant than finding the RIGHT influencer?
The question I put to PR, marketing agencies and brands alike is how do we start to create an industry that is ethical, how do we shape the industry so that professionals who spend years studying and gaining an education are recognized by their value? Or is this unrealistic?