If you work in comms, there are few days that go by when you don’t encounter the word ‘influencer’. A relatively innocuous word just a few years ago, becoming an influencer is now a career path synonymous with fame and fortune; in fact a Harris Poll study on behalf of Lego found that 30% of UK children wanted to become a YouTube star.
With stories of millions being made by teenagers using nothing more than a laptop and a savvy approach, a boom is hardly surprising. With no regulation in place, anyone can get in on the act, covering any topic they feel passionate about.
Influencers, influencers everywhere…
The oversaturation of so-called opinion formers and experts has had a big impact on how they are viewed as a whole. In a case of too many cooks, eMarketer data from Q4 2022 shows an increasingly low trust in influencers (75%) and a waning interest, with only 20% of respondents claiming to take any influencers seriously.
It’s a dark outlook for a huge cultural phenomenon that represents big business for the likes of PR agencies, among others. But, when you look at the negative impact the likes of Andrew Tate has had on impressionable young people, you have to question whether the days of the influencer are marked.
Time to regulate?
The public affairs sector faced a similar crisis a few years ago, when anyone with any connections at all were begging favours from government officials, leading to questionable outcomes. At the time, the credible lobbyists, attempting to influence change through intelligent thought and action, were tarnished with the same brush as those acting for more self-interested reasons.
The answer was to self-regulate, and the Public Affairs register was born. The strict code of conduct signatories must operate under has led to more transparency and raised the credibility of lobbyists. That isn’t to say the odd bad apple doesn't crop up.
Could something similar work for influencers? Those seeking to do good would happily sign up to a set of behaviours to set a standard for their craft. Given the continued impact they have on society, and the potential for both good and bad to come of their advice, it's certainly worth exploring.