The Fame Game

How I discovered the power of social media influencing

You’d have to be living under a rock, or at least, perhaps not an active user of Twitter, to have missed the recent “social media shaming” story that’s all over the news of late. I’d been meaning to post a blog for a while now (two in a month? Huzzah!) and this conveniently segued into this week’s subject matter.

In short, a social media influencer [n. a user on social media with credibility in a specific industry who has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach] approached a hotel and asked for a free stay in exchange for exposure to her vast audience. The hotel reacted by stating that exposure would not pay their staff…and social media dealt with the rest.

Old tricks, new tools

Let’s face it – this story isn’t really news. I turned 28 this week so I think I’ve earned the right to say “back in my day”, working in the print media industry, I asked for my fair share of freebies. So important was exposure then that journalists could put out PR requests for products to “include within a feature” of a magazine – for example, skincare products for winter. Obviously we were inundated with samples so we couldn’t include everything and yes, I will admit, 22-year-old Katie did abuse the system once or twice. Particularly shameful was an incident in which Nicky Clarke representatives asked me to send back some hair cream after it failed to make it to print. Said hair cream was sitting in my bathroom, half-used. It was a rotten thing to do and I do feel bad, but that’s PR. Fast forward six years and the methods haven’t changed – just the tools.

Of course, that is not to say that everyone is going to hell like 2012 Katie, trying to blag as many freebies as possible. However, knowing my past, I’m going to sit on the fence with this one. I have close friends within the blogging community so I’m well aware of the power of social media. I also like hotels.

On the one hand, you could argue that the hotel team overreacted in their response (choosing to publish the email on their Facebook page, albeit with the influencer’s name blacked out) and perhaps responded too harshly to what has become common practice in the digital world. On the other hand, you might feel that asking for a free stay in exchange for something which may or may not guarantee long term repeat business is, for want of a better word, cheeky.

I must admit, when I read about the case of Laura’s Little Bakery in Liverpool, I did take the business owner’s side. While reading up on this story I discovered that the bakery was approached by none other than the X Factor PR team for a free cake. Rightly so, owner Laura told them that she only provides free cakes for charity, and that a production as large as the X Factor should have a budget for such expenses. As Laura put it, these companies should be supporting local businesses while touring the country. However, this is totally different from the aforementioned social media influencer request, and it’s very doubtful a sole trader blogger could boast such a budget!

Using social media influence for good

I’m digressing a little from the original point of this post. My point is, while those commenting on this story might dismiss social media influencers as “full of their own self-importance and hungry for five minutes of fame”, the truth is, it’s not all bad. I refer you now to the original focus of this blog, which was to update you on my fundraising.

Long story short, every couple of months I write for Deafblind UK’s magazine, Open Hand. Back in November I was asked to run the London Marathon for them and was tasked with raising £1,500 for the charity. I’m thrilled to say that after just SIX WEEKS the target was reached. How did this happen? Primarily, thanks to the generous donations of friends and family, but also, through my own forays into the power of social media influencing.

open handIn particular, one idea was to publicly act out “dares”, given to me by the general public, in exchange for a donation. Some examples and highlights include wearing makeup a la Pat Butcher, running around Tesco singing Black Box’s Ride on Time and eating five Scotch Bonnet chilli peppers. To garner more publicity for Deafblind UK (and let’s face it, 15 minutes of fame) I took to social media. What ensued was a viral response and engagement from up to 83,000 people at a time. Of course, viewing a video of me running round the aisles of Tesco isn’t going to help the incredible team at Deafblind UK, but, anonymous donations are! By simply sharing these videos on LinkedIn I managed to gain more than £300 in donations from people I have never met. Naturally this was supplemented by all the donations from people I do know, many of whom gave me huge amounts of money to do silly things, like eat a whole chocolate cake!

Without social media, this simply wouldn’t have been possible. After sending a press release to the York Press, I featured in an article both online and in print. After seeing this, local channel That’s TV York approached me and interviewed me for their YouTube channel. After posting this on Facebook, I received a message from BBC Radio York and featured on their breakfast show, shamelessly talking about public humiliation for a good cause. I’ll say it again: without social media, this would not have happened.

To summarise then, first of all, a massive thank you to everybody who has donated. Having reached the target so quickly I can now focus on running, though I will gladly carry on harnessing the power of social media for good! Whether you’re a slightly-past-it observer like me, or a serial tweeter with incredible influence in the blogging community, it’s safe to say that, if nothing else, this fundraising mission is indicative of social media as a force for good.

Now then – I’m off for a run….but not before tweeting this blog.

Ta ta!

Katie Lingo
by Katie Lingo
15th January 2018