Now Is The Time For Influencers To Harness Their Platform For Good
At SMWLA, a panel of creators discussed how to lean into causes and issues while still being organic to your personal brand.
Power can be a dangerous thing and social media has provided us with platforms that help make us feel powerful. Relaying information and opinions at the drop of a tweet – social media has played a pivotal role in the cultural conversations of the day.
With one terrible tweet, Roseanne Barr used her power for bad and we all know the result. These platforms that were made to connect us and bring us closer are slowly tearing us apart.
While social media has been a hotbed for controversy there is still a lot of good to be harnessed from Twitter and Instagram. Influencers and creators have become quite powerful in their own right over the last several years and are increasingly using their personal brands to drive positive change in their communities and beyond. SMWLA was curious to explore this topic and invited a panel of influencers to talk about how they are using their platforms for good and what motivates them to be the positive change they want to see in the world, to loosely quote Gandhi.
Actress and activist Milana Vayntrub sat down with creators Gabriel Zamora, Matt Steffanina, Erin Robinson, Craig Mini Ladd Thompson and Ricky Dillon to talk about “Going Good: Using Your Platform for Advocacy.”
Having influence is not only powerful; it can be quite valuable. The panelists offered several takeaways for influencers and brands who want to better understand what “going good” with your platform looks like.
Identify what matters most to you and own it
Vayntrub pointed out early in the conversation that influencers have the opportunity to positively impact the causes that matter most to them through a sort of ripple effect. It starts with identifying that one cause or social issue that really digs at you and keeps you up at night. As that dig deepens, it is up to influencers and brands to figure out they can make it relatable and digestible for their audience. It is well-known that ad blockers continue to rise, but influencers are still gaining followers and respect from engaged audiences. If you truly make an effort to connect with your audience, then you will know what kind of content resonates with them.
As Erin Robinson framed it, “trial can be testimony.” For her, being her authentic self and talking very openly about health issues that plagued her inspired other women to get themselves checked out. Women’s health was always important to her but being able to share a real experience with her audiences and show vulnerability opened the door for her to be a real advocate.
She also recommends staying in one lane and showing full support for one cause as a way to create genuine connections with your audiences. She referenced Tyler Oakley who has been a steadfast LGBTQ ally as an example of an influencer using their personal brand to stand for a cause most important to them. Leaning heavily into that one topic that matters most to your brand will really resonate with audiences and
Strike when the time feels right
Building a following can take time and knowing when to show that vulnerability can be hard. Sometimes for brands and influencers, it is their own audiences that drive the conversation and can encourage them to highlight particular parts of their brands that promote positive change.
After two years of posting beauty videos, Gabriel Zamora noticed comments from fans about how happy they were to see Latino and LGBTQ representation in the beauty industry. It was only after building this audience and establishing his presence on social media that Gabriel realized he had a legitimate platform to help advocate for what matters to him. He told the crowd it is important for influencers and brands to do their homework. If a cause interests you and your audience is receptive to hearing more about it, educate yourself on the best organizations and charities out there effecting change. Once you’re equipped with the proper knowledge you can identify the organizations making the most impact and figure out a way to partner with them to help reach audiences.
Craig Mini Ladd Thompson grew up all over the world and saw poverty in some of the poorest places in the world. When he built his platform he made educating himself on the best organizations out there getting clean water to nations in need a priority. He found his niche, did his research and is making an effort to visit these countries and report back to his fans on ways they too can get involved.
Don’t be afraid to get vulnerable and personal
Though influencers put a lot of themselves out there for the public to consume there is still that fear of vulnerability and being rejected for representing their deeply held personal ideals or experiences. Ricky Dillon spoke about his struggle with mental health and why he decided to partner with the Crisis Text Hotline. He took bullying, one of the most painful experiences he had growing up and used his platform to advocate against bullying and offer support for those who feel alone and depressed. He did for himself what he could not do growing up but gave a voice to his fans who felt they had none. More influencers can do the same if they strip away the fear of being judged and really open up about past experiences.
Meeting with your audience can also help break down fear. Ricky Dillon recalled meeting fans and hearing their personal stories and how meaningful it was to interact with his audience. Giving faces to the names on a screen can humanize the interactions and make influencers and brands more open to the possibility of opening up.
Matt Steffanina also points out that there doesn’t have to be this big showcase of support in the form of $1 million. Not all brands and influencers can offer that kind of support, but asking one million people to donate $1 can make a huge difference. If you are open about why you’re asking your audience to donate they might be more likely to open their wallets to your cause.
Influencers and brands have the potential to lead the conversation towards causes for good. Suicide prevention, water crisis, refugee crisis, women’s health and LGBTQ issues are just a sampling of the social issues affecting the world. By using status and a big following for good, being vulnerable and talking in a genuine way about the issues that matter most, brands and influencers can guide the conversation towards positive change and be that powerful influence the world needs.
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