I’ve heard a lot of negativity recently surrounding social influencers; ‘mum bloggers’ in particular. This stems from the belief that influencers, like myself, exist solely to snatch up ‘freebies’. I think it is a shame that this picture has been painted as it totally dismisses all the effort and work we put into our content planning and making. As well as the beautiful images we share to document our baby’s and children’s life & adventures. I therefore wanted to give you a brief insight into the typical ‘day in the life’ of an influencer to better understand what exactly it entails.
Firstly, let’s explore what a freebie is to allow us to later discuss why this is different to the process of gifting. By definition, a freebie is something that is provided or given to somebody free of charge – often a freebie is a taster/tester/sample of a product. A freebie is usually given without obligation meaning you have no commitment to use the product, talk about the product or buy the product. An example of this might be a sample of perfume which you apply for online, it arrives in the post and you use how and when you wish (or not at all).
For micro influencers like myself, a gifted item is very rarely sent with no obligation. Some companies gift an item and ask for a review whilst others send reams and reams of requirements you need to agree to in exchange for the gift (usually higher ticket items). I’ve even been given set storyboards I need to film, edit and post for some gifted items I’ve received.
Time is money. These ‘gifts’ aren’t actually free – they are given in exchange for my work. In this situation I am being given a product as a form of payment. If you were asked to stay behind at work and create a blog post, Instagram review and Instagram grid post along with accompanying pictures/videos/editing you’d expect to be paid. We too expect to be reimbursed for our time, effort and work. That’s right what we do is work and for some of the more seasoned influencers it is their sole source of income. In the ‘mummy’ sector in particular, social influencing has given lots of influencers the opportunity to leave their previous jobs and work from home reviewing and blogging.
In my experience, nine times out of ten there’s a brief that comes along with a gifted item. Even the smallest briefs can take us in excess of an hour to put together – larger briefs may require ongoing work over a number of weeks and/or months. It is a very similar process to my former TV job in which I was a production coordinator (minus all the budgeting thank goodness). We’re sent a paper brief and we have to turn it into an enticing and engaging visual. Before we even think about creating content we have to get to grips with the product and start asking ourselves what makes this product, what would the consumer want to know, what’s it’s best function, who exactly is the audience… We brain storm ideas, bounce them off whoever will listen, think up a ‘script’ (as required), source props, create the optimum lighting, attempt to get our babies & children to pose for the camera, take lots of different options, edit, ask for feedback from our peers, edit again, write up our review and/or accompanying blog post, consider the best time to post based on audience… I could go on. It is a process and one that takes a huge amount of thought and effort.
Though before any of this can take place you have to understand how we came about the gifted product in the first instance. Thus far, only about twenty percent of items gifted to me have come from a company approaching me without any prior contact/engagement from myself. The other 80% comes from me seeking opportunities and ‘getting my name out there’. The majority of gifted opportunities come via PR companies. Many larger businesses have a dedicated social media marketing team and outsource this work to PR companies who have experience in their specific sector. In order to stand out to these PR teams you have to work extremely hard. There are hundreds if not thousands of other influencers out there also fighting for their share of the pie. In order to be successful, you are consistently building connections and rapport, engaging with the sector and your peers, keeping an eye on upcoming trends, creating pitches and sending them to prospective ‘clients’ as well as maintaining an active online presence.
Social influencing is work and it’s hard work. This is coming from somebody who is partaking whilst on maternity leave – some influencers are running their platform(s) on top of a part or full time job. I feel that sometimes our work is taken for granted and people think we only post about products because it’s been given ‘for free’ or we’re being paid to post. I can’t speak for everybody, but myself and many of my influencer friends have not and will not take products that they are not genuinely interested in. My rule is that if I wouldn’t be willing to buy it then I won’t accept it as a gift. Yes – I lose out on opportunities because of this but I pride myself on being honest in my reviews and opinions and don’t want to showcase products I’d have no desire to buy otherwise.
My social platforms are like my digital CV only I have no choice as to when it may be scrutinised. Companies, PR firms and individuals are accessing it and making judgements on it all the time. Therefore I’m under constant pressure to ensure I’m posting my best work, engaging with my followers and not allowing my accounts to sit dormant for any period of time. That means we don’t just flick an out of office on and forget the world for a couple of weeks when we jet off on holiday – nope we document the lot. If we don’t stay active the algorithms work against us, our stats drop and we lose followers. If we lose followers and have poor stats we may also lose work & clients.
I am immensely proud and honoured every day to be classed as a social influencer. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever be calling myself that. When I started documenting Reuben’s life and sharing my must-haves and tips I had only 350 followers made up of family, friends and colleagues. Today I have 7.6K followers and counting. I have wonderful direct messages sent to me on a daily basis, people contacting me who are genuinely interested in my son and I get to work with fantastic brands testing out & reviewing incredible products.
Social influencing has so many positives – a lot of those openly evident. It can be both materially and financially rewarding whilst allowing us to be part of a wonderful wider community of other likeminded individuals. With the good comes the bad, as with everything in life. It is all consuming and sometimes feels impossible to switch off from. It’s no 9-5 where I leave the office at the end of the day and don’t think about work again until I’m on my commute the next day. I think about my work constantly. I have anxieties about my content, whether I’m good enough, why a post didn’t perform well, what I did to lose followers, how to make a picture fit with my grid, whether I can schedule a post to hit a deadline… I am in a never-ending cycle of creating, analysing and critiquing myself.
What I, and many others, do cannot be likened to ‘begging’ or ‘freebie hunting’ – though I have heard influencers being referred to as such. Please understand how hard we work. Even just writing this blog post has taken so much time, endeavour and will power. I have to try and write blog posts when Reuben is down for a nap or I find it impossible to focus. That often means between looking after my son, running my Instagram account and writing blog posts I don’t actually get much ‘me’ time at all. I’m cool with that but I’d love for others to see and appreciate all my time and effort and celebrate any achievements with me and champion me in my quest to be a successful blogger and influencer. ‘Cause hey… I’d like to be one of those stay at home mum bloggers too – being fortunate enough to earn a living doing something I enjoy and love.