The Value of Influence : A Rant

I am an influencer.

cringe.

What does that word conjure in your mind’s eye? Leisurely stretches on a beach, effortless perched musings on a windowsill – coffee mug tenderly clutched between sweatered hands, in bed with a laptop,  strolling down a boutique laden street with not a care in the world. Right?

Great. Then we’ve done our jobs exquisitely.

plus+size+fall+style

Today I did something I don’t often do – I took to my instagram stories and asked if anyone would care to trade a hair color service in exchange for a static instagram post.

A hair colorist messaged me and confessed that she would never take the trade because hair services are her livelihood.  Feeling like I offended her, I apologized. I felt guilty. How dare I ask for a fun freebie when I so often speak about how no one values my own work as a blogger, content creator and photographer. We are all artists and we all deserve money for our efforts. Period.

Then, as I am prone to do: I sat and overanalyzed the situation. Feeling slightly disgruntled by the conversation myself.

Is a social post advertising a service useless?

Heck no.

My work has value too. 

I was reminded of a fantastic article by Corissa Enneking of Fat Girl Flow. In it, she asserts that the workload of influencers is highly overlooked because it is traditionally female and therefore oftentimes seen as shallow, amateur and vapid. This is plainly not the case.

After working for over a year in this industry and watching the growth and strategy of some of my favorite role models in the biz, I can tell you this work takes a considerable amount of effort, commitment and work ethic.
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Most influencers are one stop shops;  meaning they do most of these activities ON THE DAILY.

  • Creatively pitch ad campaigns to brands via email, phone or skype. (Sometimes an email leads to a phone call leads to a skype sesh, you get it).
  • Fill out paperwork, read contracts, sign contracts, communicate with personal assistants, social media managers, brand reps etc.
  • Charge batteries, maintain & clean  camera equipment, purchase camera equipment, research camera equipment, lighting, software etc.
  • Spend time creative directing: this could be anything from selecting clothing, scouting locations, creating a color story, making a prop-list, shopping for props, gathering props. Courtney of Color Me Courtney spends an entire day location scouting for her whimsical content.
  • If these content creators are on multiple platforms, workload increases. Youtube requires filming – generally a half hour to two hours depending on the content. And maybe five to six hours of editing (that last time reference could be me, I’m a newbie to the YouTube post-production world – and I LOVE it).
  • Reselling clothing on Poshmark/Depop/ebay : cleaning the clothing, wrapping the clothing and taking items to the post office.
  • Researching industry trends – this can be anything from reading a book about social media marketing, watching trending YouTube videos, getting advice from the pros, listening to a podcast. Whenever I drive ANYWHERE I am listening to podcasts about SEO, marketing, female entrepreneurs, financial development, photography, public relations and witchcraft (can’t hurt, right?)
  • Personal grooming and photoshoot hair and makeup. I usually want my hair fresh AF, styled, and my makeup done perfectly before I leave the house to shoot. I still look busted sometimes despite my best efforts, so you know I spent more then 2 hours on myself when I actually look cute.
  • Photoshoots: driving to a location, working with a photographer (or in my case a boyfriend) to communicate the needs/vibe of a shoot. Shooting. Changing clothing/hair/makeup/accessories. Going to a new location. Shooting.
  • Transferring files, selecting photos, editing photos. This can take anywhere from ten minutes (for those fun impromptu iphone photos) or two hours (for significant campaigns shot RAW on DSLR).
  • Posting to social media and engaging with an audience. If you don’t CARE about your audience – YOU SHOULD NOT BE DOING THIS JOB. If you don’t personally communicate with people who comment, DM, chat with you – what are you even doing? I personally like to take a note from Lauryn Evarts of The Skinny Confidential and spend an hour in the morning and an hour at night communicating with my audience. It’s fun and I’ve made real-world friendships doing this. I still don’t get to answer every single comment/dm – BUT THAT’S A 2019 RESOLUTION BABY!

This is all a teensy chunk of what goes into the world of an influencer. It’s labor intensive – that’s for sure. Influencing is also emotionally intense. So many of us are documenting our lives and therefore opening ourselves up to criticism about ourselves. It’s easy to say “well that’s the trade in” – but it shouldn’t be. Constructive criticism and dialogue is always always wonderful and I myself have grown immensely this year because of the individuals who have taken the time to critique my work (and viral tweets). However, helpful feedback can quickly escalate to cruel trolling. We all like to think that we’ve been called “Fat disgusting whores” enough to be immune to it. We’re not. Some of us receive death threats – just from looking pretty in a dress and profiting from it.

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Yeah, I get boxes of free makeup. That’s amazing. I am so grateful to receive these items and to benefit from the generosity of many companies. At the beginning, receiving PR packages felt like Christmas morning in the middle of May.  Now, although I still squee when I receive a particularly pink lipstick – I see these items as tools.

I come from a retail background. I was on the management team of an Anthropologie and also created social media for my store location. If there is anything I can compare social media work to – it’s retail. Long hours, funky schedule, showing up to work looking polished only to do the goofiest shit you could ever do in a dress, wearing a million hats and communicating with all kinds of people.

This is a wonderful job. I personally would love to see it grow as an industry. I don’t think my job is any easier or any harder than anyone else’s. I don’t want anyone to pity me, or listen to my tiny violin play the tiniest sad song in the world.

I just want people to acknowledge that this is a career, and it has value.

XO,

Rosey.

roseyblair

Plus size style junkie and advocate for size inclusivity in the fashion industry. Lusting after Gucci and Prada bags. Taking pictures everyday. Trying to cultivate good skincare habits. Planning the next stamp in my passport. Creating a cozy home with lots of treats and treasures.

6 Comments

  1. Mary
    December 21, 2018 / 9:20 pm

    This turned out to be a rambling comment so feel free to ignore.

    I think this is a thoughtful post and that your skills are useful and have value in many contexts, but in capitalism the market determines your value. There is no objective measure of value besides the market and the level of demand for your service. It’s shitty and demoralising! Obviously many companies do value your skills because you are sent products to review. I think there are complicated things to investigate relating to different types of labour. As an influencer (or musician or visual artist) you are essentially your own product and it can feel like a particularly personal rejection for your product and labour to be negated, whereas there is already an established market value (and often an hourly wage) for hairdressing. For people with an hourly wage, likes and exposure are usually not an appetising exchange for the ability to make rent. That doesn’t mean the currency of social media is valueless (it’s clearly a huge industry) but it’s new and constantly in flux and much less of a fixed, known value than money. I don’t know anything about influencing but I get the impression that when certain bigger companies take on an influencer they demand certain numbers (followers, views, clickthroughs). These numbers alone only represent whether or not it’s worthwhile taking you on as a small risk among many other influencers. Eg, ModCloth sends you clothing that is .0000001% of its daily profits in exchange for the calculated risk that 3 of your followers will make a purchase. You can see why hairdressers wouldn’t have the resources for an exchange like that, where they’re offering you a concretely valued service and in exchange get the possibility of new business or no business, regardless of how much effort and skill you put into the post or video.

    I’m really interested in the burgeoning politics and economics of influencing and don’t think you’re in the wrong for asking for the exchange. I hope you keep writing about it!

    • roseyblair
      Author
      December 21, 2018 / 9:54 pm

      Hey Mary! Thank you for this badass and thoughtful response. I think this is such an interesting conversation. And I am excited because the fact that we are having the conversation means that this world is developing. I’m glad you’re able to see both sides of the coin – it’s certainly a grey area. I will say that there IS a market value to my services. I would love to explore a breakdown of value in a future post. I also want to be hella clear (though I think you know and inferred this in the last sentence of your comment) that I would NEVER approach an individual and ASK for a service in exchange for social. I thought casting a wide net and seeing if anyone would bite would be non-offensive and symbiotic. I was surprised when I received messages that were critical of this ( I figured – if you don’t want it, don’t volunteer ALL’S GOOD). And there is also a great deal of nuanced value other than immediate sales. Retail was pretty demonstrative in this for me. I had customers who didn’t purchase a single thing from me when I helped them try on clothes, consulted them, and then cleaned up for them but they would come back a week later and purchase, asking for me by name. And yeah – totally see how resources come into play with these individuals. When I’ve worked with other people in the industry, I’ve been approached at a salon/company level. It’s never been my motto to cut out opportunities for ma and pop organizations, or sole proprietors. OOOOOF. I feel like my brain just got turned on. Thanks for your thoughts and engaging conversation! This means a lot to me!

      • roseyblair
        Author
        December 21, 2018 / 9:56 pm

        SORRY IF MY COMMENT BACK WAS RAMBLY

  2. December 21, 2018 / 11:14 pm

    Wow. What a fantastic blog post! We feel the exact same way about almost all of it. Michael watched a webinar on how to brand and pitch yourself as an influencer and felt sooooo reaffirmed after watching it. We are experts in what we say we are experts in, but only if we believe we are experts. Thanks for sharing!

    • C. Fisher
      December 24, 2018 / 2:20 am

      I don’t agree with your last sentence. You are not an expert of a field just because you say you are an expert of it. Saying something doesn’t make it so…it takes hard work. And I can think of any number of examples where improperly asserting that you are an expert can do real harm…like in the fields of law or mental health.

  3. December 22, 2018 / 2:29 am

    HELLO CUTE HUMANS!

    Brianne from The Huntswoman here. There’s a lot to unpack in this post, and the negative responses from people – so let’s dig in. I’m drawing on my background as an online marketing consultant aaaand as a blogger.

    *** Influencer Marketing is a BUSINESS PRACTICE ***
    FYI, “influencer marketing” has a return rate of 11x. Which is way freaking more than social media ads, and I’ve managed online marketing campaigns for almost 10 years. Social media and google ads see 3-4x ROI. (1)

    *** INFLUENCERS HAVE RATES, TOO ***
    There are standard rates for working with an influencer, if she feels the company would be of interest to her followers.

    Industry standard rates around $10 per 1,000 followers. That puts Rosey around $400. (2). For companies who can’t afford those rates, gifted product is the norm. If companies can’t afford to gift product, they don’t work with influencers.

    *** Rosey isn’t taking advantage of people ***
    Rosey wasn’t asking for someone to fail to pay their rent to work with her. She was asking for folks who saw the value of her work AND had the ability — to trade services. This is super common in the blogger world. Getting new clients is pretty hard for an upscale salon, as folks rely on reviews to decide to try someone new. Influencer marketing is also called “word of mouth” marketing for this reason.

    *** Creating Content is WORK ***
    I’m dismayed to see folks think that women creatives shouldn’t charge for their time. If Rosey was a dude, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    CREATING BEAUTIFUL CONTENT TAKES RESOURCES. You buy books from authors, stream Spotify and watch commercials (or pay for the ability to fast forward thru them). Rosey is trying to build a beautiful Americana-Esque (my description) community. And that takes cash.

    Kudos to Rosey for having an upfront conversation on this.

    1. https://www.inc.com/bill-carmody/influencer-marketing-delivers-11x-roi-over-all-other-forms-of-digital-media.html

    2. https://blog.bufferapp.com/influencer-marketing-cost

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