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Social Media Backlash

Updated: Apr 2, 2018

A UK-based social media blogger, Elle Darby was billed €5,289,000 by a Dublin hotel for the publicity she gained after an “embarrassing” incident. The social media influencer found herself in the middle of the media backlash when Paul Stenson, the owner of the White Moose Hotel publicly refused her offer to collaborate in exchange for a free five-night stay at the hotel.

Darby then took to YouTube to express her emotions and rally support from the blogging community. From the saga, Darby gained tremendous exposure and Stenson, decided to bill the blogger for the exposure in 114 articles across 20 countries with a 450 million reach. We will dive deeper into this #bloggergate saga and reveal the important lessons from this marketing case study.

The Blogger

In her YouTube video, Elle Darby describes the blogging industry and its challenges. As a seasoned blogger, Darby, should have put more thought into crafting her email messages. She should not have come across as entitled, instead highlight her role as a professional and the benefits her services can provide and fair remuneration (not a free hotel stay).

Image Elle Darby, YouTube

Let us shed some light on the blogging industry. Most bloggers are creative individuals who are passionate about something; fashion, cars, food, travel. They thrive to be self-sufficient (most have regular day jobs) by growing their blogging business so that they can pursue their interests.

Professional bloggers are expert social media marketer who painstakingly grow their audiences over time. Some brands utilize influencer marketing to sell their products. They engage social influencers to be their brand advocates to reach a niche audience. Collaborations can be in the form of a paid blog post or sponsored social media post, event sponsorship or freebies.

But is it effective? True influence drives action, not just awareness. Around 40% of Twitter users said that they have made a purchase as a result of a Tweet from a social influencer (from Twitter). In 2017, there were more than 14.5 million brand sponsored Instagram posts and brands spent a total of $1.07 billion on influencer marketing. And this figure is expected to double by 2019 (from mediakix).

Although influencer marketing is still relevant to a marketing strategy, such incidents have cast some doubt on the blogging industry. And as a business owner, you should do your homework before engaging a social influencer. You should conduct a background check, ensure that they do not have a lot of negative publicity. As brand advocates, their personal brand will affect your brand. Also, review their social media accounts and evaluate their audience base for quantity, relevance and engagement. Read our article on how to choose the best social influencer for your brand.

The Hotel

How would you have reacted if you were Stenson? When an unforeseen situation arises and you receive negative publicity for your business, what do you do? Stay calm, strategize and plan your response. Lets see what went well and what didn't.

Stay true to your values. On The White Moose Café’s media page, it states that they are opened to the idea of brand endorsements in a natural and comedic way, not contrived and staged. And staying true to their beliefs, they had the right to refuse Darby's offer to collaborate.

Witty comebacks and humor. Sometimes humor can ease a tense situation. In this case, Stenson sent Darby a fake invoice amounting to €5,289,000 to illustrate his point that she should not feel entitled to a free stay. He even made a brilliant fake press conference video where he "apologized" to the blogger for his posts and comments.

Be respectful. Stenson's intention was not to reveal Darby on social media but to prove his point. Instead, he went to great lengths to black-out the names and details from Darby's original email. However, the whole incident could have been avoided if it was kept out of the public limelight to begin with. Always think before you post. A good marketing campaign can go viral very quickly, but so can negative publicity.

Going too far? Being as an opportunist can have repercussions for your brand. In this case, Stenson did not stop at sending the fake invoice to Darby, he announced on Facebook that all bloggers are banned from his business. Then he made jars labelled “TEARS OF BLOGGERS” to decorate his café and designed a line of t-shirts to humiliate bloggers. Because of this subsequent actions, the initial support he garnered quickly faded and were replaced with comments calling him a bully.

Images from White Moose Cafe, Instagram and Facebook.

Be sincere in your apology. Although Stenson eventually tried to defend Darby on social media, it was far from an apology. Was this too little, too late?

Image from Paul Stenson, Twitter

The Conclusion

So, who benefited most from the #bloggergate saga? Both the hotel and the influencer had their fair share of supporters and critics.

Comparison Table: Social Media KPIs (The Hotel vs The Influencer). Data collected from Instagram, Twitter, YouTube as of 23 Jan, 2018.

For Instagram, Darby was the winner with more than 11,000 new followers, 3.4X more than her daily average. Her likes increased by 1.5X and comments increased by 12.7X (although not all were positive). For Twitter, Stenson and the White Moose had a more significant presence and emerged as the victors. The White Moose increasing their average likes by 17.2X and reposts by more than 168X!

Finally, given Darby’s clout on YouTube, she emerged as the ultimate victor in this saga. She had more than 1.9 million views for her video “i was exposed (SO embarrassing)” which was 24X more than her other videos. Although both The White Moose and Elle Darby benefited from influencer marketing, Darby was by far the biggest winner.

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Recommended Article: How To Choose The Best Social Media Influencer?