Social Responsibilities for Digital Influencers
What am I sharing online? Does it have any negative impacts to the people that follow me? Is it legal? How can I have a positive impact on my audience? - These are all things that content creators should be asking themselves every time they create and share something.
I’m at the forefront of the content marketing and digital influencer world within Canada and North America, specifically within the travel and outdoor markets. For the past few years, there’s been a growing trend of people promoting illegal activities and/or bad environmental stewardship through their social media channels. Not only are they committing these acts themselves, but they are promoting them to large amounts of people that follow them on social media, some of those being minors below the age of eighteen.
Having a large social audience can have enormous gratification but it also brings with it the responsibility to act sensibly and an opportunity to make a positive difference in peoples lives on a daily basis. I have nearly one million followers combined across my social platforms which is a huge honour. I work tirelessly to ensure that I follow rules and regulations wherever I take photos. I do it out of respect for myself, my audience and my clients - everything you share online has consequences, both positive and negative. Most digital influencers, like myself are self-employed and freelance, this means its up to ourselves to self-govern and raise the bar on our own code of conduct to set an example for others.
I’m writing this in an effort to try to educate influencers, general users of social media platforms and clients that work with influencers on best practices and the law in some cases. No one is above this, not myself, you, your family or anyone else on this planet.
Instagram Stories while driving - Do you really value your Instagram account more than the lives of others on the road around you? What example are you setting to new and old drivers? It’s illegal on a federal level in most provinces, territories and states within North America.
Trespassing on private property - Why are you illegally trespassing? Why didn’t you get permission from the land owner?
Walking on fragile environments - While this might not be illegal in all cases, it is bad environmental stewardship. Think of the damage you’re doing to the surroundings, is it really worth it? Will you encourage your audience to do the same by doing this? Did you jump a fence to reach your destination and was that fence there for a reason?
Flying drones in National Parks without a permit - Flying a drone without a permit in a National Park is illegal on a federal level within North America. By flying your drone, are you going to encourage others to do the same there and have them think its legal? What if your drone crashes out of access and the batteries decay and cause irreparable damage to the environment?
Camping illegally - ‘Follow Leave No Trace’ guidelines. Does your campsite encourage others to camp there? Are you too close to a lake?
Not disclosing brand partnerships - It is your responsibility to disclose any partnerships you have with clients. It’s the law! Be open with your audience, they will respect you more.
Influencers, consider the following:
You likely have lots of minors following you. Therefore don’t promote alcohol without the correct disclosure. Don’t combine alcohol and vehicles in any form in a digital campaign, even associating the two together is illegal.
Your Instagram posts, stories, tweets, facebook posts all reach people no matter how large your audience is. Your actions have consequences!
Communicate with your client on activities that they approve and disapprove of when you’re working together.
What to do if you’re not happy with someone’s questionable actions?
The worst thing you can do is let it go. The only way our society moves forward in the right direction is by standing up for what you believe in and what is right. If you think that someone is doing something illegal or promoting bad environmental stewardship, speak up. There are a number of different avenues you can take:
Collect evidence and submit a complaint to the Ad Standards of Canada or the FTC in the USA if the individual(s) are working with a client. Outside of North America, contact your national authority for advertising.
If a serious crime has been committed, contact your local police authority. (use common sense in deciding whether to contact an emergency or non-emergency line)
If the individual(s) are working with a client, contact the client by any means possible. Discuss the matter. Ask for a public apology from them and the individuals they are working with.
Contact the individual(s) themselves. There might be an opportunity to educate everyone involved. Ask them to remove the material in question.
If you believe the matter should be made public, share your thoughts on social media. Stand up for injustice and don’t let is slide. Do so in an adult way that doesn’t bully anyone or involve slander.
The world of digital influencers is fun and most follow the rules but there are a select few that believe they are above them. The above information may not apply to all genres of the influencer industry, but general common sense should be used in all situations. Everyone is human, we all make mistakes but if you have the opportunity to make the world a better place, take it!
I’d love to hear your thoughts or if you think anything else needs covering on this topic. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org