Why influencers matter

I should have been disappointed after Vuelio’s Online Influence Awards on Friday night. Instead I left feeling inspired, having been reminded about how talented influencers are and the importance of their stories in helping us understand diversity.

I arrived as a finalist in the Best Dad Blog category but left as a runner-up. My friend John from Dad Blog UK (pictured with me above) won for the second time in three years. John was absolutely the right choice: he’s a great writer, creative, raises awareness about important issues and sets a good example. He’s a great role model and has become the face of stay-at-home dads (and dads in general) in the media. John’s a genuine influencer in the best sense of the word.

Disappointed? A little

Was I disappointed not to have won? Yes, of course.

I never expected to win but there’s always a glimmer of hope right up until the moment someone else’s name is read out, isn’t there? That means I’m now 0-for-6 as a finalist in major awards over the past four years.

Does that sting? A little, but not excessively so. And at least it means I maintain my membership of the Always the Bridesmaid Club.

Inspired? Definitely

However – and I mean this sincerely – it didn’t spoil my evening. I like awards dos. It’s an excuse to get dressed up. I also don’t get that many opportunities to meet up with old blogging friends and make new ones.

John and I have known each other for more than four years. I’ve always enjoyed his writing. But I also appreciate the fact that, as a stay-at-home dad, he offers a window into a world of parenting experiences that are very different to my own.

The same goes for Ian from Dad’s Delicious Dinners (a single dad), Jamie and Tom and Kate and Sharon from, respectively, Daddy and Dad and Les Be Mums (both same-sex adoptive families) and Kelly and Zoey from Our Transitional Life (an LGBT+ family, where Zoey recently came out as transgender). That’s a pretty diverse – and talented – set of influencers right there.

The last two above both won awards on the night. I was delighted that Les Be Mums won the LGBT+ Award but even more so that Our Transitional Life won Best Newcomer. The LGBT+ community has a particularly strong voice in parent blogging these days. And while it’s great to have a specific award for this important segment, for an LGBT+ blog to win in an open category like Best Newcomer is – to me, at least – even more significant.

Each of the above have something distinct in common that draws me to them. They are all excellent writers with distinctive viewpoints and unique voices. Through their stories, they enrich my world-view.

It’s quite humbling, really. It makes me feel like an imposter, talking about my mundane, ordinary life.

Nonetheless, it’s also inspiring. Being a finalist among such talented company is recognition that I’m doing something right. But it’s also a reminder of how high the bar is if I want to be considered among the very best. I’m in awe at the talent and diversity shown by my peers.

Why influencers matter

However, that’s in stark contrast to the waves of negativity that come from some in the mainstream media.

Journalists continue to weaponise the words ‘influencer’ and ‘blogger’ against us. It’s a sneering, thinly veiled way of showing their contempt and dismissing all influencers as rank amateurs who are just on the make and playing at being real writers.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the criticism is deserved. Not every influencer is a beacon of quality and ethical behaviour. But that doesn’t make all journalists superior to all bloggers.

I can think of several influencers who produce content as good as any of their journalistic equivalents. Often more people read their posts than many newspaper or magazine articles. Several are best-selling authors. And guess what? Some bloggers are former journalists too.

And it’s not as if all journalists are Pulitzer Prize winners in waiting, is it? I could point out plenty of examples of hack-job, lowest common denominator trash which is published by so-called serious journalists every day. Pot, kettle, black?

Frightened bullies

Often bullies lash out at their targets because really they’re afraid. And when I see a journalist tarring all influencers with the same brush without any apparent cause, it makes me wonder if the same is true of them.

Are they afraid of us?

Maybe they are. And, if not, maybe they should be.

Bloggers and influencers have the freedom to publish whatever content they like, free from an editor or publisher’s agenda. We can more easily address niche audiences and topics that exist outside of the mainstream. That means we can offer readers a greater diversity than any traditional news channel. If you’re interested in opening your eyes rather than putting on blinkers, you’re more likely to find the content you want on WordPress than in the Daily Mail.

And it’s for this very reason that influencers are influential. Our readers recognise this. And they see us as peers they can relate to, rather than as members of an industry that has a not undeserved reputation for smug superiority.

So, yes, influencers matter. Our voices matter. Our stories matter. And their diversity makes us more not less relevant in a world where too many people are conditioned into fearing ‘the other’. And that’s something that will always inspire me.


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