Social media ‘influencers’ have become a huge industry, as more and more people spend their time on the likes of Instagram, YouTube and Facebook rather than ‘traditional’ media like newspapers and TV.
According to media branding agency MediaKix, the money being spent on influencers has shot up in recent years and is going to continue upwards. Back in 2015, the industry was worth about $500 million. By 2020, it’s expected to be worth between $5 billion and $10 billion.
With this much money splashing around, you’d think that influencers would be happy to stump up for their own holidays, wouldn’t you? This exchange between British Vlogger Elle Darby and Paul Stenson, owner of The Charleville Lodge Hotel and The White Moose Café in Dublin, might be the beginning of a backlash against entitled influencers and their habit of asking for freebies in exchange for ‘exposure.’
YouTuber Elle Darby sent this email to The Charleville Lodge Hotel, requesting free accommodation:
Hi, there, I hope this email finds you well. I’m emailing in regards to a possible collaboration on social media-my name is…, and I work as a social media influencer, mainly lifestyle, beauty and travel based. I have over 87,000 YouTube subscribers as well as 76,000 Instagram followers. My partner and I are planning to come to Dublin for an early Valentine Day weekend from Feb 8th-12th to explore the area. As I was searching for places to stay, I came across your stunning hotel and would love to feature you in my YouTube/dedicated Instagram stories/posts to bring traffic to your hotel and recommend others to book up in return for free accommodation. Last year I worked with Universal Orlando in Florida and it’s been amazing for them. Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in doing-I look forward to hearing from you.
Owner Paul Stenson, who also owns The White Moose Cafe, decided to post his reply on Facebook:
Dear Social Influencer (I know your name but apparently it’s not important to use names). Thank you for your email looking for free accommodation in return for exposure. It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity. If I let you stay here in return for a feature in your video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room?
The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay? The laundering of your bed sheets? The water rates? Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence? Lucky for us, we too have a significant social media following. We have 186k followers on our two Facebook pages, an estimated 80k on our Snapchat, 32k on Instagram and a paltry 12k on our
Twitter, but Jesus Christ, I would never in a million years ask anyone for anything for free. I also blog a bit, which as far as I’m aware is another way of saying “write stuff on the internet”. The above stats do not make me any better than anyone else or afford me the right to not pay for something everyone else has to pay for. In future, I’d advise you to offer to pay your way like everyone else, and if the hotel in question believes your coverage will help them, maybe they’ll give you a complimentary upgrade to a suite. This would show more self-respect on your part and, let’s face it, it would be less embarrassing for you. Best regards, Paul Stenson.
Mr. Stenson’s sharp rebuke garnered a huge reaction online, with many people supporting his stance against an industry that we haven’t quite come to grips with yet. Many people see influencers as talentless freeloaders shamelessly hawking products with little more to offer than their looks, and this was reflected in the comments.
Unfortunately, some people took it way too far and Ms. Darby ended up on the receiving end of a torrent of disgusting abuse.
“My issue was not with the refusal of my request but with how he reacted,” she explained in an emotional YouTube video. “A very simple way to have gone about it would have just been a ‘no’ or for the email to be ignored instead of me having death threats and cancer wishes.”
Ironically, in his quest to expose the ‘exposure’ culture, an unrepentant Mr. Stenson got more exposure for his business than he could’ve possibly imagined.
As influencers united to defend their industry and condemn his attitude, Mr. Stenson upped the ante by announcing a complete ban on influencers, saying that any that try to enter the premises would be “ejected.”
He also sent Ms. Darby a mock ‘bill’ for all the exposure his actions had earned, just to further his point.
Mr. Stenson is no stranger to controversy, having made the headlines for several instances of social media outrage. His tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred communications sharply divide people, with some applauding his honesty and biting humor, while others consider him to be somewhat of a bully.
He once left an insane guest directory in the rooms of his hotel, with the following warning about hairdryers:
“If you try to steal the hairdryer from your room, you will be in for a little surprise. There is an explosive device installed on the inner wall of the hairdryer chamber, if you attempt to remove it from the room, the anti-theft system at the front door will detect the hairdryer in your bag and detonate the explosives, killing you and anyone around you.”
He also took on vegans after they reacted negatively to one of his tongue-in-cheek posts, issuing this ban on the entire ‘vegan population:’
“Given the torrent of abuse and unjustified negative reviews we have been receiving from the vegan population over the past 24 hours, all vegans are now barred from our café. Any vegans attempting to enter the café will be shot dead at point-blank range.”
Add Ed Sheeran fans to the long list of people that Mr. Stenson has insulted, and you wonder how long this can go on. Business still seems to be good, however, and Mr. Stenson is unapologetic about his manner of communication on Facebook.
“It’s not nasty, it’s funny, it’s a joke and not meant to be taken any other way,” he said. “Facebook is not a place for professionals, it’s a place for fun and engagement and having a laugh.”
“We filter out the people who can’t have a laugh via Facebook, I’d much rather have our 30 rooms occupied by happy people.”
By Mindaugas and James