Influencers have a huge reach and ability to raise awareness of brands, causes, news and trends. Their behaviour can shape the behaviour of their audience. But away from brand deals and influencer trips, is there the potential for influencers to make changes to social issues? And should they get involved at all?
Influencers Responsibility on Social Media
Social media and mobile technology have completely changed the narrative. Powerful videos, images and first-person accounts have completely changed the perspective and driven real changes at a societal level. Look at George Floyd and the BLM protests last year, or the footage we all saw of China at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This acts as a real-time record of events that can be used at a global level.
The US and UK elections saw celebrities and influencers endorsing candidates and political parties. Sharing their views and encouraging people to vote for change. This isn’t foolproof (as the Cambridge Analytica scandal demonstrated) and so many different voices can make it more difficult than ever to make a decision. Plus there’s evidence that bots are often used to render hashtags or a movement useless.
Avoiding Performative Acts
A challenge with influencers and social issues is that it can be seen as ‘performative’ or hopping on a trend rather than striving to make real changes and act as an ally. It can even block out conversations about the very topic that they’re looking to raise awareness of. This was said to be the case with #BlackoutTuesday where people added a black square to their social feed and didn’t post throughout the day in recognition of Black Lives Matter. It was well-intentioned but stilted the conversation around the issue. And also saw many influencers posting about the topic once, then never again.
Remaining Authentic is Important
As with most influencer activities, the key to influencing change is authenticity and consistency. It’s about demonstrating awareness, experience and education. Giving real, actionable tools for people to follow their lead, and resources to learn more about a topic. Influencers looking to make a societal change must demonstrate that it isn’t just for show or likes, that their commitment goes further than just a hashtag.
Education is Key
Some influencers don’t take the time to educate themselves fully on the matter they’re talking about, which can lead to a backlash as it feels inauthentic or they make mistakes. This can then turn into being cancelled, which 99% of influencers would agree is not something they want to happen in their career.
Can Influencers Create Social Change For Good?
So, can influencers really create social change for good? The answer is absolutely, by using their influence and educating their audience on issues that matter. Whether they should get involved in social change is subjective and depends on the influencer, the situation and their authenticity. It also depends on who you ask.
There’s no doubt that influencers have the ability to have an impact on their audience. Whether it’s dealing with society, a brand launch or a collaboration. It’s up to them how they choose to do it and what they want to use their power for.