The Dark Side of Being A Social Media Influencer
Fame isn't the only thing that comes with amassing a large audience as an influencer. Casual observers, and you guessed it... haters come hand in hand.
In 2011, a MAC makeup artist from Florida, Jaclyn Hill, started making beauty tutorial videos in her home to help educate her local clients on makeup application. Fast forward almost seven years and Jaclyn Hill is a YouTube star – today Jaclyn has over 3.7 million subscribers and 291 million video views on her self-titled channel. Jaclyn, who started from humble beginnings, quickly became a marketer's dream. Her bubbly personality, ability to connect with her viewers, honest opinions and expertise in the makeup and beauty space made her a viable option for influencer marketing in the cosmetics industry. As Jaclyn produced more and more content, more brand partnerships and collaborations rolled in, and thus, her audience grew exponentially.
Losing The Connection With Audiences
When an influencer grows exponentially, they not only welcome more revenues, but they also welcome considerable negative factors. Influencers who "make it" risk losing the trust of their audience over time. The audience fears that the latest "ahhh-mazing" product they share is backed by ad dollars and isn't an authentic endorsement. Influencers play on a fine line – they need to make money, and they need to please their audience. So when the audience begins to question the influencer, we call this crossing the trust threshold (you can read more about this theory here.) To add to this theory, as an influencer’s audience grows (either organically or through brand partnerships), the influencer starts to lose the real connection with their original audience and attract more casual observers, and... haters.
Today, Jaclyn Hill has public facing profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. That's over 700,000 Twitter followers, 380,000 Facebook Likes, 3.4 Million Instagram followers, and of course her MASSIVE YouTube audience of 3.7 Million Subscribers. Unfortunately, not all of these individuals are fans. In fact, despite being an industry expert and an awesome vlogger, Jaclyn gets hundreds of "hate" comments.
In early 2016, Jaclyn made a video titled, "Trying To Make A Change." The video featured a teary-eyed and makeup-less Jaclyn – this was certainly a different look for the influencer who is typically dolled up and bubbly. In this video, she pleads to the camera and to the “haters” to stop their nasty comments, not just targeted at Hill, but to other viewers watching her videos. Jaclyn shared in the video that she had to take new measures on her channel to stop the negativity, which included disabling comments on videos and blocking "haters."
"The negativity is bringing me down. It's making me not want to go to my videos. It's making me not want to film videos. It's making me not want to get creative. It's making me scared of my YouTube channel."
"People are cursing at each other and telling each other how ugly they are. It's just like, what is going on? This is makeup."
Social Platforms Are Taking Notice
Unfortunately, influencers like Jaclyn Hill aren't alone. The amount of negativity and hate influencers are receiving is growing.
In August, Instagram announced a new feature, that would be rolled out to high-profile accounts, that would allow users to disable comments on posts. Celebrity-influencers like Kylie Jenner and Taylor Swift were quick to jump on board by either disabling comments altogether or filtering out offensive keywords that were often posted to their accounts by "haters."
Why Do The Experts Receive Hate?
When someone becomes so significant in a space – whether it be the makeup industry, sports, or pop culture – they seem untouchable and individuals start to forget that there are real people behind the public personas. When Jaclyn Hill was making videos to a few thousand subscribers, her channel was more intimate, more real, and a fun and safe community. Sure, there may have been the one-off negative comments, but the community was different. This is something Jaclyn has referenced in multiple videos over the last few years.
But once she reached "fame status" and attracted the more casual observers, negativity begun to perpetuate. Take a look at large-scale influencers in almost any sector, you’ll find the “haters.”
Social Networks Need To Put Anti-Bullying Measures In Effect
While there are now some measures to stop the haters on some social platforms (e.g. disabling comments), it is likely that more brands and influencers will push for more stringent regulations when it comes to spam, rude comments, and online bullying. In essence, social networks are letting a culture of online bullying flourish. If bullying continues to affect influencers like the Jaclyn’s of the world, will influencers be more wary about how much content they produce or how much they show their audiences?
More needs to be done by the social networks that make money from these influencers. Networks need to shed light on WHO the people are contributing to the online bullying culture. An example of this could be making individuals use their real names and connect to other profiles online, to ensure individuals can’t hide behind an online persona.
For now, influencers, like Jaclyn, will continue to operate and get by with limited anti-bullying resources. Their true audiences and fans will still love them and listen to them. As for dealing with the casual observers or "haters," influencers need to listen to the wise words of Taylor Swift, who is no stranger to social media haters: “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate – I shake it off.”