On Being Paid to Win Friends and Influence People
There’s this word that PR people use to describe people like me who blog and run their social media accounts as a career: Influencers. Influencers meaning that we have “influence” over our readers or followers and thus deserve to be paid money to use that influence.
I have found through personal experience that there are two types of “influencers.” Those who influence with relatability — maybe they are funny or truthful or “real.” Because you see yourself in them, you trust that you’ll like things they recommend. I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Our friends influence us all the time. We usually assume we will like the things that people we like use and enjoy.
The other type of influencer is the type that influences with desirability. Maybe they are unusually attractive or have impeccable taste or possess a desirable talent. Someone we want to be like or emulate, even in tiny ways. I think of it like this — Jennifer Aniston is an influencer through desirability. Jennifer Lawrence is an influencer through relatability.
This is what most of us bloggers don’t like to talk to our readers about. The weird thing about being paid to advertise to you. The #ad hashtag on an Instagram post is basically the kiss of death. Admitting we were paid for a blog post knocks down our credibility. It’s this awkward way of saying, “hey readers, I’m your friend but also I’m being paid to be your friend” and to a lot of readers, it’s unseemly and feels like a betrayal.
As an influencer in my own right (although not to the extent of a lot of men and women I know and look up to), I feel torn about this relationship more times than not. I would categorize myself as firmly in the “relatable” camp, and because of that, I cherish my relationships with my readers. I have friends — real friends that I text with regularly — who are not bloggers but blog readers that I met through their messages to me on social media. I genuinely love and care for the people who invest in me, and yet…sometimes I am paid to use my influence on them through brands I promote on my channels. This is a reality.
It truly doesn’t bother me that this is my career. Far from it, actually. When you can manage to find a way to generate income off of being yourself and sharing your interests, it’s a pretty incredible accomplishment. But where things get muddy for me is the part where we tiptoe around this part of our relationship — me hoping you won’t really notice that I just shared a paid post, you annoyed that I chose to “sell out” or “got a free trip MUST BE NICE” or “I CAN’T FIND THE RECIPE BECAUSE THE ADS,” until we get past it and back to focusing on the highlights of our relationship like when I’m honest about my anxiety disorder or show you how I look without makeup or tell you that my kids are driving me nuts and you let me know that “same girl, same” and all is well between us again.
But you know…I’m just not happy with that. It doesn’t feel good.
This needs to be said — I work hard. Really hard. But do I work harder than you? Do I work harder than my daughter’s preschool teacher or the men who pick up our trash every Monday? I seriously, seriously doubt it. And that’s a truth that needs to be acknowledged about being a blogger and an influencer. I don’t think that I deserve a trip or a free mixer or to be paid for an Instagram post more than you deserve it. But it’s my job. Sometimes I think it’s unfair. Sometimes I see trips or products that other bloggers or social media figures get and roll my eyes. Sometimes I’m jealous. Sometimes instead of being grateful I am too busy focusing on what someone else looks like or has or got.
Sometimes I am really excited that I got a free cruise and whether I feel deserving or not, I’m taking it.
I mean, that’s the truth.
Sometimes I feel like I worked harder than what the money or the trip or the product was even worth. And then sometimes I feel like I didn’t even EARN the trip or the product or the money and wonder what the catch is.
That’s the truth.
It’s not a truth that feels attractive or relatable or good. But it’s real.
I have blogged for 7 1/2 years. To the point where it’s honestly the longest career I’ve ever had. And I’ve found success from a lot of hard work and a lot of learning and a lot of luck.
Not to undermine the talent of any blogger or influencer, but what we often fail to acknowledge is that sometimes we got a lucky break on a recipe that went viral on Pinterest or a celebrity who happened across our website, or a brand who stumbled across us on a Google search. There are blogs and Instagram accounts I have found by accident that BLEW ME AWAY with their gorgeous content and incredible talent. And yet…they have way less readers than I do.
The world is weird and it isn’t always fair and lucky breaks are a very real thing. It doesn’t mean that I’m not talented — it means that I recognize that my talent isn’t necessarily greater than yours. But that doesn’t make me less worthy or deserving and I’m not going to give up a trip or a paycheck because of it.
I am Kristan. I am a mom and a wife and I’m told that I am a business owner (although “computer typer in pajamas” sounds more accurate). I consider you to be my friends. I creep your profiles (when they’re public), I look at photos of your kiddos, I chat back when you message me on Snap or Instagram Stories. You’ve loved my Lucy since before she was born, you’ve emailed me personal stories about trauma that you’ve never even shared with your own family, and you help make my dream of blogging as a career a reality.
So I guess what I’m saying is…I admit it. I earn a living doing this.
Can we still be friends?
I really hope so.