That title’s probably a bit harsh.
Over the weekend, there were a bunch of stories about Elle Darby. In case you missed it, she’s , the “social media influencer” who got herself into bother from the White Moose Café in Dublin after trying to use her e-fame to blag a few nights free accommodation. The owner of the hotel called her out on Facebook, (incidentally, there was no mention of her actual name), and off the back of this, Elle published a confessional video defending herself and explaining how hard she works.
At the time of writing, the video “I was exposed (SO embarrassing)” has around 1.5 million views – her most popular to date.
In all honesty, I’m probably not Elle’s target demographic. As a result, I’m probably a lot less sympathetic to her than her fan base of “Angels” would be.
The Currency of Fame
The rise of e-celebrity is a kind of Warholian phenomenon.
We all have an audience, and we can all create content that is designed to appeal to that. Regardless of your tastes, there is someone out there who is steadily making videos or writing lengthy screeds that will fulfil your needs.
Online communities know no borders. Whereas 20 years ago, your specific tastes may not have been commercially viable, now they are. 20 years ago, I doubt that a major broadcaster would have commissioned a weekly series of shows about sanding down 1970s Hot Wheels Cars and restoring them, but now, if that’s your thing, you can tune into BareMetalHW on YouTube and fill your boots along with around 150,000 other subscribers from around the world.
And this is where it gets complicated.
Elle Darby has around 95,000 subscribers. That’s a small town, but it’s also a drop in the ocean when it comes to a global market. It’s an easy number to quantify, but not necessarily to value. To Elle, these 95,000 people are a validation of her lifestyle. They follow her and some of them presumably hang on every word. A few of them might be influenced into making a decision based on her recommendation. But not all.
If we were to quantify Elle’s or any other e-celeb’s financial value as a brand, we’d need to look at some metrics in real detail. What is the monetary impact of her endorsement. What click through rate will I get from her social media posts?
Handily we can check this out – Elle uses Bit.ly to track her links. A week or so, she posted a link to her favourite outfit:
The link she posted got over 1,000 clicks:
Assuming that the conversion rate from these was 5%, MissPap might have sold 50 of these fetching outfits. The usual price is £35, but with a 30% discount, you get it for £24.50. That is worth £1,225. Not bad, especially if people pick up a few more things during their visit.
If the outfit was a giveaway, then the ROI on someone like Elle is worth having. It’s a good bet.
The market for a hotel room in Dublin is a lot lower than the market for some daisy grey loungewear. You’re relying on people wanting to spend more than £35, and have the time and inclination to visit. As anyone involved in travel marketing knows, you’re selling two things with a holiday: The destination and the hotel. Someone might see the post you’ve funded with Elle and say. Dublin looks really cool, I’ll book myself into the Hilton. Whereas Elle might be able to sell 50 sets of pyjamas, she might only be able to sell one hotel room. For one night. That means a negative ROI.
The value of Elle’s fame when she sent her email was probably not high enough to risk marketing budget on. She’s a bad bet.
The other thing that’s important is the makeup of Elle’s audience, and the value of that to a potential advertiser. When it comes to
pyjamas loungewear, it’s probably a decent match. Something like mountain bike accessories, probably less so. The decision about whether her audience is a good match to a particular hotel’s something that a savvy marketer would take into account before signing off on a deal.
That “Marketing” Thing
In my day job I’ve “given” away a lot of stuff to bloggers. Usually this comes as part of an orchestrated promotion of a product, as something that is structured to maximise the impact for my client’s brand. Calculations are made about the ROI of specific people and then they’re given rewards commensurate with what they can offer.
In this case, I think Elle has been a bit naïve – perhaps assuming that she’s notable enough to stand outside a typical promotional campaign, or that the size of her following is sufficient to entitle her to something that she wants. Ironically, the fallout from the whole affair will probably qualify her for the kinds of rewards that she wants.