The real influencers
Today every blogger claims to be a journalist, writer, chef, or photographer. But are they worthy of such titles?
Our world of Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, has converted an entire generation, if not more, into broadcasters. We tell, and mostly show, the world every nitty-gritty of our daily lives – what is the outfit of the day, the scrumptious meal that we just consumed, how pretty our red painted toes look on the golden sands, how much love we have in our life, if we do not have romantic loves, we have what is currently trending as "self-love"! Everyone, including yours truly, can espouse deep, meaningful quotes while posting absolutely unrelated, vain pictures of themselves. We are all supposedly communicating, and communicating all the time. While none of this can ever replace real person-to-person interaction, it definitely feeds attention and appreciation to many of our deprived, overworked, and under-nourished souls. This constant communication has also aided the rise of a community of online broadcasters or bloggers, vloggers, photographers, fashion stylists, writers, poets, entertainers, etc.
Just a decade ago, having a blog was akin to having a diary. It was a hobby, not a profession. Today, blogging is a full-time, paying job. Similarly, anyone with a Twitter handle is an opinion-maker, anyone with Instagram is an influencer, anyone who bakes cupcakes is a chef, and anyone with a DSLR camera calls himself a photographer. Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against these people, but what I am about to say is definitely not going to make me popular. I have been thinking a lot about this growing trend in the last few years long before the recent pertinent writings by Elinor Cohen and Vir Sanghvi on Influencer Marketing.
While both the writers correctly say that influencers don't really influence anything, they politely stop short of calling most of them fake and sold out. While using influencers to market brands is common, the actual results that each marketing initiative done through an influencer achieves is hardly ever charted. But, this has been written about already. The bone I have to pick is that the importance given to the entire community of bloggers takes away the respect from the actual hardened professionals of the same field. For example, when an entertainment journalist with 20 years of work experience gets placed on the same platform as a blogger who is still green behind the ears but has sizeable social media followers. Amateur photographers with fancy 5D Mark III are considered at par with pro photographers whose pictures are not solely dependent on Photoshop and various filters.
There are, of course, a few among these who are individual geniuses; the creativity and technical prowess that they have honed on the job are undeniable. Social media gives these deserving few a level playing field. But for the rest of the community, whether they are food, tech, or fashion bloggers, their quality at the very best is average. So, let's for a moment forget why they make for effective marketing tools and let's look at their dodgy skill set. At the crux of the undue importance given to bloggers is the fact that most professions such as journalism, photography, cooking, fashion designing, acting, modelling etc. are still considered to be 'easy jobs'. Twitterati with zero background in journalism are writing journalistic pieces. Anyone can become an Instagram model nowadays or post videos of themselves cooking and be called a chef; at least that is the public perception.
If I can dress a wound properly, would you call me a nurse or a doctor? If I change a light bulb, does it make me an electrician? If I change my flat tyre, does it make me a mechanical engineer? Just because there are a different set of skills involved in journalism, photography, writing, cooking, fashion designing – skills which are not too difficult for the common multitude to comprehend – does not mean that there is no skill involved at all. Many of us have studied and passed examinations to even enter a profession, it has taken years for us to sharpen our skills, hundreds of days and countless hours spent struggling and learning from the bottom-up. Let's not be so caught up in the transitory whirlwind of social media that we forget to give these actual professionals and influencers their rightful due. Let's separate the wheat from the chaff, shall we?
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)