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Influencer or freeloader

White Banana Beach Club in Siargao made the local and international news recently after they posted this pointed remark about influencers on their Facebook page:

“We are receiving many messages regarding collaborations with influencers, Instagram influencers,” they said. “We kindly would like to announce that White Banana is not interested to ‘collaborate’ with self-proclaimed ‘influencers’.

“And we would like to suggest to try another way to eat, drink, or sleep for free. Or try to actually work.”

Influencers, says Google, are people “with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.”

These are people who maintain Youtube vlogs, online blogs, and carefully curated Instagram and Twitter accounts that obtain and review products and services from sponsors and tout them to their audiences for bucks or goods.

There are those, however, who, just because they have a social media presence, pressure establishments to sponsor them, despite being unable to quantify the value they can provide.

As expected, social media erupted for and against White Banana’s statement. One Lance de Ocampo, who says he’s been “in the industry” for eight years, decried White Banana’s public ‘parinig.’

“No need to throw shade,” he wrote. “There’s always a better way to decline a collaboration. E-mail to e-mail, private message to private message.” This sentiment was echoed by other bloggers.

After their initial post blew up, White Banana explained that they are not against real influencers, just the freeloaders. And if they need influencers, White Banana said they would approach them, and not the other way around.

Freeloaders have been part of the media community for decades. Back in the day before social media, we called them ‘hao siao,’ meaning bogus journalists.

I recall handling events at which two or three of them would pop up for a free lunch. I never begrudged them their table and meal, even if they were no longer with any media establishments, even if they never came across with any press releases or photos.

It was when they turned demanding, asking for a handout or free stuff, in-my-face-ing their expired media IDs, that I would become irritated. Entitlement complex is annoying, particularly when accompanied by mansplaining and the smug self-assurance that they’re more of an asset than they actually are.

Some influencers can get cocky. Lance de Ocampo also said, "Siargao will not be as appreciated as it is now if not [for] the so-called influencers' breathtaking and well curated Instagram photos."

That’s ascribing too much credit to oneself, or, in this case, a particular group. His hubristic statement raised the hackles of many netizens, because Siargao was a go-to for surfers even before bloggers, vloggers, and Instagrammers came along.

De Ocampo’s sweeping generalization belittles the efforts of the national and local government, old-school TV travel shows like the late Susan Calo Medina’s ‘Travel Time,’ and other pre-social media efforts that built Siargao into the breathtaking vacation spot that he and other tourists have discovered. (De Ocampo later apologized for this remark.)

This attitude is contagious, particularly among some who, just because they’ve lucked out a few times with sponsorships, think they’re owed the world, like a fly perched atop a carabao’s back.

But unlike me and the lunches at my events, an establishment like White Banana wouldn’t be out just a meal if they collaborated with an influencer.

They would have to provide food, drinks, and accommodations for several days, the use of facilities, and so on. They have their resources, budget, and marketing strategies to consider.

It might be that White Banana’s message was harshly worded, but it’s obvious that they are exasperated with all the sponsorship requests they’ve been receiving.

Influencers are a relatively new breed of endorser who operate on social media. The value that some of them provide is not apparent to all businesses. It’ll take time for them to become a part of the majority of publicity campaigns, but they are the future of marketing in this age of computer-mediated communication.

Some influencers do provide huge value. Take actress Maine Medina and her campaign for MAC Cosmetics—her lipstick sold out within hours online and in a couple of days in stores. Now that is genuine influence.

Like many other establishments that have remained silent on the topic, White Banana is against moochers, not influencers in general. It’s always best to keep pitches professional, and if the business takes such requests amiss, it’s their prerogative. Just be gracious and humble, and move on. ***

Abraham Lincoln said, “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.” Well said, Abe. / FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Jenny Ortuoste , Influencer or freeloader , Banana Beach Club , Siargao
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