Should Influencers Be Activists?
Do you consider your social media a political platform?
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, its clear that social media has become a key component of civic engagement. Everyone from President Trump to the Parkland teens have leveraged social media to further their message. Social media builds community, and more than ever before political and social movements originate online. (When was the last time there was a protest that did not have a hashtag?) Movements such as #blacklivesmatter, the Women's March, and the recent March for Our Lives all originated on social media, and their leaders are influencers as much as they are activists. In fact, the line between influencer and activist is becoming increasingly blurred.
As a marketing company, we spend a lot of time thinking about how influencers can use their relationship with their followers to provide honest product recommendations. Of course, this doesn't even scratch the surface of what influencers are capable of. The influencer-follower relationship is built on trust, a feeling that the influencer is an authentic person who is sharing a snapshot of her life and is honest about her thoughts and feelings. Like celebrities and athletes, influencers have a platform, a unique ability to get their voice heard on issues that matter to them. This gives them a unique political power, and raises important questions. There is a great deal of discussion in regards to whether celebrities ought to be using their fame to further social causes and, recently, I've been thinking quite a bit about what responsibility influencers have to their community in terms of social engagement. Much of our marketing data indicates that people are more willing to trust influencers for product recommendations than celebrities. Why shouldn't the same be true about politics? While it is true that many bloggers think of their social media persona as a fun pastime, a way to get away from the stresses of daily life, the reality is that influencers have the ability to impact other people in much more significant ways than what to wear or what to buy.
As a woman-led company, Obviously holds causes of female empowerment very dear. This is why we have collaborated with organizations like Planned Parenthood and The Gates Foundation, which fosters educational programs for women around the world. It's very possible that the issues you hold close are entirely different, but its still worth taking the time to consider what impact you could have through your social media persona. The manner and method of doing this will be different for everyone, but it is important that influencers be aware of their platform. As they say, with power comes responsibility. I would argue that the modern-day version of this is with influence comes responsibility.
Of course, it may be that you completely disagree with me. Many influencers and bloggers view their social media persona as a chance to step away from the messy "real world," and there is something to be said for that as well. If your focus is fashion or fitness or gaming, it may not make sense to you or your followers to pivot into the world of activism, even if it's something that matters to you in your daily life. There is also the very real risk of alienating certain followers that have come to you for recipes or fashion advice, and instead feel inundated with political opinions. This is a delicate balance to strike, and may not be for everyone.
Do you think influencers have a responsibility to use their platform for social causes? Why or why not? How much of your personal beliefs do you share with your followers, and why? Let us know in the comments!