We live in a time where information and news stories are thrown at us 24/7 and 365 days a year. In past times, a newsworthy story would take place and it may be covered by local media outlets. If that same story had appeal or traction, often referred to as “legs,” would be picked up by larger outlets and perhaps investigated and reported on more deeply. Now, that process happens almost instantaneously and a story that happened in some corner of the world this morning can have the world's attention by evening. Not that all these stories aren’t compelling or newsworthy, some are and some aren’t. The point is, the speed at which they are deemed newsworthy and the speed at which outrage grows behind a story, is unlike anything ever seen before. The fuel for these fires is a large part due to influencer marketing.
Many studies show that in regards to the news and other types of stories that are presented to us, particularly in a digital space, we have a favorable outlook or believe those stories more than the ones coming from our cohort or group of friends. This is a natural human instinct and isn’t a new phenomenon, your more likely to believe something if it comes from a trusted source. Aunt Jane wouldn’t lie to you so if aunt Jane said it’s true then it must be true or if she likes it then it must be a good product or service. This in its most basic sense, is the essence of influencer marketing and how opinions are shaped. Brands use influencer marketing all the time, it used to be primarily through the endorsement, typically by a celebrity or a well known figure, but since our communication channels are digital in nature and often times are insular or encrypted brands can only get access if they are granted access on one from or another. That grantor now could run the gamut from the traditional celebrity to your aunt jane and anyone in between that is part of your preferred channels.
How this concept of influencer plays a part in what at times seems like weekly if not daily outrage over a news stories or some incident with a celebrity or other well known figures or even cat GIFs follows a similar track. We’ve seen this series of events play out many times over the last few year's where an event ends up dominating the news cycle and our social media feeds and timelines that in previous times, would have been something we may or may not have noticed in passing. If you log on to one of your many communication channels and you see likes, shares or retweets on one particular story with those actions, you’re going to be more likely to look into the story, at least on a surface level to see what all the commotion is about. Also, the way that story is presented to you from your trusted influencer is largely going to determine how you react to the story and also how you go about sharing it with other inside your trusted conduits of communication. So, if aunt Jane shares a story via social media that she is outraged by, more than likely you will be outraged by that story or incident as well and when you share, you’ll share from a position of outrage. When looked at through the prism just described one can see how easily a story can “go viral” and how outrage can grow as the story grows.
The most recent example of this is the outrage and rightfully so, was over tweets from TV star Roseanne Barr about Valerie Jarrett, who served in the administration under former U.S. President Barack Obama, comparing Jarrett to a monkey. This is something Barr would have said in private or in passing or maybe even to a local reporter in another time and the story may have died there. But, she decided to put this message on social media and given the size of her following, it was a day or so between the original tweet, the outrage that ensued, and ABC deciding to fire Barrr and cancel her TV show.
Another example of how influencer marketing is connected to internet outrage is the alleged interference Russian hackers had on the 2016 presidential election. The hackers thesis that spreading misinformation using social tactics like memes and fake blog stories that were shareable would influence and create outrage among a certain segment of the electorate. They thought that this would consequently change the outcome of the election or at least undermine the candidate they didn’t favor once in office which obviously, that tactic bore fruit for them. Other examples include, the #METOO movement which began last fall and a few years back, there was the #BringBackOurGirls viral campaign that sparked outrage over the kidnapping of 200 hundred women by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Outrage over news stories isn’t a new phenomenon and neither is influencer marketing. The difference is that now, outrage can be gas lit and spread like wildfire through digital platforms and it might be justified it might not. Either way, it’s usually accelerated by the use of influencers within our respective digital circles. This trend will only continue and as the platforms we use become more insular and permission based, the more potent these outrages will be when they do come about because the sources we receive the news from are primarily friends and family will seem credible coming from a person we trust. What are some other examples of outrage sparked by influencer marketing you can think of? Feel free to share in the comments section we always enjoy feedback from our readers.