Hashtag Ad.

Two words that seem to have the power to divide the whole of Instagram.

I’ve been having a bit of a crisis of conscious over the whole thing recently, on one hand I don’t want to push away the very people who have given me this platform – my followers, but on the other hand I spend a lot of time creating content and writing and occasionally a few quid for it would be nice.

The divide is very clear, the people loudly and proudly supporting ‘influencer marketing’ (ick) are the people already working in the field, or hoping to. It’s other bloggers who offer the first likes on a post labelled ‘ad’, it’s them who comment, who congratulate you on getting such a great partnership. The problem with it being a bloggers-supporting-bloggers circle is that likes and comments don’t result in actual sales for the brands. And if more and more people keep getting turned off products that are advertised through social media soon influencer marketing will stop being the success it is and brands will move on to something else. For the time being, they don’t seem to be turned off by it, but I’m not sure that will last. I have never really been on one of these inner circles of other bloggers, I know a lot of other bloggers and love them dearly, but I’m not part of A Group (as in life I guess). This means my engagement doesn’t always look great at first glance, which leads to not getting invited to the awesome trips or getting the best opportunities for promotions. Which makes it so much harder to climb your way through the mess of influencer marketing. It’s a funny catch 22, the bloggers with the best friends get the best opportunities (most of the time, not always, I can think of a number of incredible bloggers who have made their way without a foot up from anybody).

The response from the non-blogging (had no idea what word to use here… ‘normal’, ‘muggles’, ‘only-slightly-narcissistic’?!) followers is very different, no matter how much the photo is genuine or the caption truly from the heart as soon as the non-bloggers see ‘ad’ they don’t give it a like. You have to be blind to not have seen the vocal criticism of the growth (or epidemic) of influencer marketing too, every time anybody speaks about the feel of Instagram changing the overwhelming opinion from those who aren’t bloggers is that it’s because of too many ads, and it doesn’t feel like you can genuinely trust an influencers recommendation anymore. Which I completely understand and empathise with.

I haven’t faced any personal criticism (to my face) for any campaigns I’ve worked on, and I do like to think it’s because I think long and hard about which to accept, how to ensure they fit within my timeline, and when to post. This does make it fucking hard work if I’m honest, each paid promotion I do will take me several hours to complete, because I am so conscious of the shit you get if you get it wrong, staging and taking photos, writing captions, recording Stories, organising competitions, writing reviews… This also means I can’t help but feel insulted when a PR company approaches me about doing a blog post, an Instagram post, and a story in exchange for a product worth £10. My time is as important as anybody else’s, nobody should be accepting that kind of payment for that amount of work.

Something I find very interesting within the ‘influencer’ communities is that the bulk of the criticism lies within the ‘mummy bloggers’. Fashion, beauty, lifestyle, travel – these are all topics that are earning influencers within them a lot of money, yet they face not even half the amount of criticism as mums within the industry do. They shout about being worth being paid more, they talk openly about earning money, they buy houses and cars and holidays with what they earn – and they are celebrated for it. Yet there’s a strange change of tone as soon as that influencer is a mum. Mums shouldn’t be earning money from Instagram, they shouldn’t be going on a free holiday, they shouldn’t be reaching a point where they can quit their job, hire a nanny, and buy a bigger house. The mum bloggers are expected to stay grounded (although not too grounded – you can’t show you’ve made money but you also can’t pretend you haven’t. It’s complicated.).

I have pulled right back on doing any kind of paid work recently, because it takes up so much of my time and is genuinely causing me so much stress. It was making me between £100 and £500 a month for the past few months, so it’s giving me a big hit on my bank balance. But the stress it causes trying desperately not to piss of the followers who have put me here and I appreciate beyond measure is killing me. On top of a Real Job, two kids (one not in childcare), a house, a book to write, and just breathing occasionally – it’s just too much. Creating the content is one stress, the worry that any minute I’ll face a barrage of hate is one stress too far.

I’m not saying no more at all. But I have gone from picky to really fucking picky. Any brand I ever worked with before you know I liked and everything I said was genuine, now it will be brands or products I really like. Like, really, really like. (Or they’re offering me over £4000, there’s not a lot I wouldn’t do for £4000.)

I don’t really know what the point of me writing this is. Sometimes letting the words come out of my fingers helps me straighten my brain. I’m sorry you lot are subjected to having to deal with it. Clearly my own mind is all over the place when it comes to influencer marketing. I think it’s great and I am so proud of the people I know whenever they get a great collaboration (and find some of the crap they have to put up with at times disgusting), so long as everything is clearly marked as an ad or a gift I have no problem with it. But I do also understand that for the average mum struggling to pay for all the kids to go to the after school clubs they want seeing a family paid to go to Disneyland can stir up a lot of emotion.

I’m having to spend some time working out who and what I want to be in this online world, I never anticipated getting to a point where people would want to pay me actual money to talk about their products. I started this blog to write and to share, unfortunately along the way I think I lost the writing a little bit. I ran out of time to do the thing I came here to do! I feel like I’ve lost myself in all the excitement a bit.

I’ve already told a number of PRs I’ve worked with before I’m cutting down massively on the amount of promotions I’ll be working on. I want to spend some more time here, where it all started, doing the thing I love most in the world.

The money and freebies are lovely, needed, and so appreciated, but getting back to me and doing the thing I really want to do – that’ll take me further in the long run.

(Cover image photography by Joanna Nicole Photography)