Did The Health Department Get It Wrong Paying Social Media ‘Influencers’?
There’s a government inquiry underway, but did the government completely miss the mark?
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- The government has been paying social media influencers to promote women’s exercise
- The health minister announced a review of the initiative after it was revealed some of the influencers were controversial
- Experts say the government’s intentions may not have been completely out of line
Branding experts say taxpayer funding isn’t necessarily wasted on paying social media influencers to promote public health messages to young people.
It comes as Health Minister Greg Hunt launches an internal inquiry into the funding of a social media campaign, run by his own department, designed to encourage young women to exercise more.
A Daily Telegraph investigation revealed the Health Department spent more than $600,000 in taxpayer funds on hundreds of Instagram influencers as part of the #girlsmakeyourmove social media campaign.
This includes paying the social media personalities to post fitness photos on their Instagram accounts with the accompanying hashtag, often including a detailed caption about why young girls should become more active.
The campaign came under fire for employing infuencers who have also used their platforms to promote alcohol products and potentially harmful diets like intermittent fasting. One influencer was even forced to issue an apology last year for using racist language and homophobic slurs on Twitter.
Instafame: Modelling coach training young people to become ‘social media influencers’
If you can make it on platforms like Facebook and Instagram as a ‘social media influencer’, every snap you post could earn you thousands of dollars in advertising money.
Influencers are no longer just celebrities — now stay at home mums, gym junkies, food lovers and makeup artists are all being paid to post photos on social media.
In April this year, there were about 5 million active monthly Australian Instagram users, mostly between 18 and 34 years old.
Advertisers have seen this change and are shifting where they spend big on promoting products and services, moving away from models and actors on magazine covers to regular people with large social media followings.
Learning how to take the perfect photo
Modelling coach Sara Bhuller runs workshops for young people looking for ‘instafame’, teaching them how to take the perfect photo.
Her Sydney agency Modelbank’s main offering was once catwalk and traditional modelling, but now they have shifted to what advertisers are calling for.
“A lot of advertisers are steering away from magazines, which are obviously now closing down or are not as popular as social media,” she said.
“People are spending more and more time on their phone and we are seeing a new breed of advertising happening.
“Business are spending more money paying social media influencers to promote their products or giving them free products to promote on their social media platform.”
One of Ms Bhuller’s clients, 18-year-old Jake Bugeja, has been attending the workshops to learn how to take photos that will attract followers.
He said he wanted to catch the eye of major sporting brands for sponsorship and partnerships.
“I want to be an influencer, mainly for fitness but I wouldn’t mind doing men’s fashion as well,” he said.
Bree Dries, 20, said she hoped her carefully crafted bikini-clad travel snaps would become a full-time job for her.
“Social media opens a lot of doors for people. I hope to get [my name] out [there], I hope to get big,” she said.
Sabrina Romano was a stay-at-home mother-of-two for 10 years when she decided to use her passion for makeup as a way “to do something with my life”.
She now has nearly 130,000 followers on Instagram as a beauty blogger and social media influencer.
“Over a period of four months my following just jumped massively,” she said.
“From when I started the least [I made] was probably about $250, and now can I make up to $2,000 to 3,000 at a time … [for] a single post.
“For a video it’s often more, $3,000 to 4,000.”
Ms Romano said taking and editing the perfect photo can be a full day of work for her.
Reinforcing traditional notions of beauty
Body Image expert Christine Morgan, CEO of the Butterfly Foundation, said she was concerned about the amount of time young people were spending on social media.
“There’s been some recent research released which shows that just 30 minutes of being involved, in particular Instagram or Facebook, significantly increases the objectification that a young person will have about their body,” she said.
“What does it look like and how does it compare to others — and 99 per cent of the time you fall short.”
She said social media simply reinforced traditional notions of beauty.
“There’s still an absolute obsession for women about the thin ideal, and for boys it’s about the lean and six pack kind of look,” she said.
“So it doesn’t seem to be shifting that.
“I think the more difficult thing is that it would be truly democratising if those people were projecting themselves as they are in reality.
“But what we know happens on social media, particularly Instagram, is that the photos that are released have all been photoshopped.”
But Ms Bhuller disagreed.
She said in general she believed social media helped level the playing field.
“There’s a lot of successful influencers that I see all the time that aren’t slim, that aren’t perfect, that don’t use filters,” she said.
“They’ve got a lot of followers, especially with mummy bloggers, we’ve got a lot of mummy bloggers and it’s because they’re real and they’re relatable.”
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