By Chris Gilmour

If Blag-gate teaches us anything, it’s that social media influencers need a filter – and I’m not talking about that thing on Instagram which makes their photos look prettier!

Back in the day, writers worked in busy newsrooms or magazine offices, where there was a chief on the desk and an army of sub editors to check the copy and rein in anything which was going to make that writer or their publication look bad.

These days, bloggers, vloggers and all manner of social butterflies take to public spaces to publish their views. Many of them, I must add, are highly professional and end up working with agencies like ours.

But there are those unable to edit their own thoughts and views to fit their audience, and can’t see beyond their number of followers, which gives them an over-inflated sense of importance.

In case you missed it (where have you been?!) a 22-year-old YouTuber named Elle Darby contacted a Dublin hotel and asked for a free stay in return for exposure on her YouTube channel and various social media.

The hotelier gave HER exposure with a curt and very public response, calling her out on his Facebook page for trying to blag a freebie and saying “It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity.”

Although he hadn’t named her, Elle promptly outed herself with a response on YouTube.

And so the “Blag-gate” ball got rolling, and rolling, and rolling.

Almost a week later, and it’s been calculated that this free publicity did neither any harm.

But what lessons can be learned from the whole hoo-ha?

From a social influencer point of view, Elle Darby made a fair few glaring errors.

No research

Had she bothered to take a look at the White Moose Café beyond the fact that she wanted to stay there for free, she would have seen that its owner Paul Stenson has banned vegans from this establishment for a bit of publicity. He knows how to create controversy to get in the public eye, and isn’t afraid to bite back and cause offence 

No audience awareness

Her followers are likely to be around her age and therefore on a bit of a budget, so they may find this hotel to be out of their price range. Brands are increasingly aware that social media numbers won’t convert into sales if they are comprised of the wrong market. Bloggers need to understand the market they influence. Are they the target demographic for this business? If not, don’t even go there. She’s proven herself to be naïve, at best.

Poor timing

She’s asking for four days over the Valentine’s Day period, when hotels don’t need to fill rooms. So she not only expects this place to give her something for free, but to turn down paying customers on one of the busiest times of the year? Get a grip!

Pointless whining

She approached this hotel as a business equal. She made a proposal to them which she thought would be of benefit. It didn't go as she hoped. Whining afterwards that she’s only 22 and that she’s been a victim shows a further lack of professionalism. Sometimes you pitch and it doesn’t get a welcome response. If you have to launch a defence, criticise the other party’s lack of professionalism. Otherwise move on.

Alienating others

In her flailing attempt to justify her blag, she points out that she’s been judged by people over 30, who “don’t understand social media”. Oh… don’t even get me started love. Grow up.

Meanwhile, Paul Stenson is rubbing his hands with glee, as the more affluent middle-aged, meat-eating market (who do understand social media, by the way) are disgusted by this young woman’s online tantrum-throwing and flock to his establishment.

He’s a guy who is used to gambling with his reputation – but knows the market he’s aiming for and does so as a calculated risk to bring in more business.

And it works for him.

He’s got that slightly irreverent brand. People quite like that sort of thing. In the age of big corporates, someone who has a bit of personality stands out.

The vlogging community should understand this - it is built on big personalities after all.

But while it is still recovering from the Logan Paul scandal, influencers should realise by now that they have a certain responsibility to act with their audience in mind and a certain level of professionalism (which Ms Darby claims to have but shows no evidence of).

As the young people of today might say - the ones I obviously don’t understand, being the over-30 dinosaur that I am…

“Check yourself. Don’t wreck yourself.”


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