I have recently seen the economic effect of influencers in action first-hand. But I won’t be dropping any names. Well, maybe one.
Have you heard about Acrylic Pouring? Over the summer while I ruminated on my writing, I let my hands get a little dirty. I love to craft. It’s a great way to let my mind wander and acrylic pouring seemed the perfect medium. As I researched – on YouTube, of course – I found many examples of how to go about doing this abstract art. Essentially you take acrylic paint, mix it with various thinners, and apply it to different kinds of canvases. I tried all kinds of mixtures for my paint, experimented with a few of my own, given the resources at hand and sallied forth to get messy with my art with varying rates of success.
So here’s where the name dropping comes in. Home Hardware. Surprised? Me too.
One of the recipes called for a paint thinner that could only be found at Home Hardware. So I called. They were out. So I asked when they’d be getting in another shipment and resolved to call then. Not only did I have to inquire more than once, I had to hit up several stores. Finally, I was given confirmation that yes, they had it in stock and yes, they would put a bottle aside for me.
When I went to pick it up the manager shook his head and laughed as he rang it up. “Can’t keep this stuff in the store,” he said. Mine was the last bottle on the shelf and he’d only just that morning got in a new shipment.
“Really?” I said. I had thought it was one of those rarely stocked items and I had just been unlucky with my timing, but now I was seeing a different picture. “Have you heard of Acrylic Pouring?” I asked.
“I have, now,” he said. A woman the other day, with the same mission as mine had told him all about it.
“I guess that’s good for business,” I said (especially as the item in question was not cheap). He nodded and handed me my purchase. I left with a new and rather profound realization of the power of influencers.
This is not new. Not even new to me. But to actually experience it in such a direct and personal manner gave me a new appreciation for this much discussed concept. Here’s this guy, a hardware store manager/owner, going about his business, stocking his hammers and shovels, his manageable-sized bags of fertilizer, his doggy chew toys and baby monitors and out of the blue this bump in paint thinner. Did he expect it? No. Is he profiting? Yes. All from something happening in the electronic aether. That’s modernity, right there in action.
So here come the questions. Should those influencers doing their acrylic pours get a piece of the pie? After all, some (who shall remain nameless) do. Do we want to know if influencers are getting paid? Should that matter? Does it affect their legitimacy if they are? Does getting paid negate their effectiveness? But what if we learn they don’t actually use the item. Isn’t their testimonial that they have first-hand experience with the item what we are buying literally and figuratively into? But how can we know? Who do we trust? Can we trust anyone?
Here’s where I stand. Let’s go back to Acrylic Pouring. On YouTube you can watch artists create their art. They say they are using a product, you can actually see them using it. I am going to choose to believe that they are not doing a bait and switch with sly video editing – maybe I’m naïve – time will tell. But for my money, you see them prepare their paints– often sped up for pace sake – and then see them pouring them together and applying them to the canvas. You see them use heat or a spatula, or tilt the painting to spread the acrylics. Then you watch the result. If they say this so-and-so magic elixir was added to the paint to get this result, you probably saw them add that elixir and then you get to see the results and judge their success for yourself. There is a certain amount of truth in this advertising. But I don’t know if that is always the case.
I am not a socio-economics professor or media and marketing analyst. I don’t know the trends or all the inside scoops. I am not a conspiracy theorist, though I hope I have a healthy skepticism. At least I know enough to know I don’t know everything. But once upon a time we got information from people we trusted, whether that was your grandma’s best pancake recipe, or your teacher instructing you on the proper use of a comma, or your neighbour down the street passing you the name of the guy who took down his tree without destroying his house.
But now our world has gotten really big.
We might not know our neighbour. Who makes pancakes from scratch anymore? And spellcheck checks most of our grammar fumbles (not all). But does that mean we take the word of someone we don’t really know, about an item they may or may not actually use? Why is it we are living in a world where we distrust experts, people who have studied and explored a certain topic, yet we are so willing to believe the flash?
Now, more than ever, what we do, who we pay attention to, where we spend our money has far reaching consequences. We may not be omniscient, able to see all the ramifications of all the little decisions we make each and every day, but we are certainly not going to if we never question what it all means.
You vote with your dollars, you pay with your time and attention and you contribute to the general wellness of this world with what energies you disburse out into the cosmos. That includes the virtual aether. Spend wisely.