As women around the world prepare for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, the campaign theme #EachforEqual, envisioning a gender-equal future based on ‘Collective Individualism’, is gaining traction.
But stop and think about that phrase – collective individualism. It sums up social media almost perfectly. We come together collectively on social platforms and we express ourselves as individuals.
We start conversations about important issues, we raise awareness, we get things trending and, ultimately, we drive change. And that sounds a lot like empowerment.
Empowerment for you, empowerment for me, empowerment for all, one of the original supposed USPs of the internet. But in the context of #EachforEqual, we’re talking about female empowerment, something being driven on social media by the influencer community in particular.
The gender-equal social platforms – and, let’s face it, that’s what they are – provide great environments for women to find their voices. And female influencers have grabbed the bull by the horns, letting loose their creativity to innovate, to attract followings and to earn on their own terms. And more empower to their elbows.
Women are changing cultural and even career agendas, using social media as their springboard to challenge gender imbalances and get crucial issues out there.
Noting that the influencer marketing industry is 77% female, social media expert Amelia Neate from the Influencer Matchmaker agency said: “Social media gives women of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to tell their story, have a voice and change the status quo. And influencers are often the ideal vehicles for that feeling of empowerment to spread.”
Encouraging each other and building communities
Establishing themselves as influencers gives women the opportunity to build communities where they can cultivate conversation around topics important to them.
Sharing their experiences in business or in life, they can find common ground with others and drive positive impacts by encouraging and amplifying each other’s voices.
Influencer communities are everywhere and there are thousands of hyperlocal groups that have formed in recent years.
The East Midlands Blogger Network in the UK, as just one example, not only starts engaging and pertinent conversations but also shares events and opportunities with its followers, actively seeking to foster environments in which those conversations can gather momentum.
Amelia said, “These communities assist the influencer from a networking, interaction, sharing and sound boarding perspective. And we ensure strong contacts with these communities that we can use to direct brand campaigns to specific geographical locations or categories.
“Individual members may have small followings but their collective power through connections with other influencers means they can make more of an impact and communicate your brand’s message at a more personal level in ways larger campaigns simply cannot.”
Driving forward social acceptance
Whether its pregnancy concerns, such as miscarriages and breast feeding, mental health and career challenges, or dealing with body issues, such as IBS and weight stigma, women influencers are breaking down taboos and empowering others to be open and proud on both social media and, importantly, in life.
In 2017, the ‘#MeToo’ hashtag took off and tens of thousands of women spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Influencers and celebrities came together with women from broader society to create a singular, unified voice that has since delivered remarkable change.
Amelia summed it up, saying: “Female influencers are creating content that not only facilitates worldwide acceptance of things that once went unspoken but also offers advice and celebrates self-love in women.”
In another recent example, plus-size model Emily Gossip who has a 99.4K subscribers on YouTube and 26.1K followers on Instagram posted a picture of her breastfeeding her newborn, giving a true and emotional insight into her journey as a new mum.
The effects were, according to Amelia, unifying: “Other mums actively engaged with the influencer, wanting to share their suggestions and stories in order to help each other – we love this heartwarming feeling of togetherness.”
Scarlett London is another influencer who has sought to redefine people’s perceptions. The beauty, fashion and lifestyle blogger has accrued over 73K followers on Instagram has repeatedly spoken openly about living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
She talks freely about how it has affected her everyday life and even been the cause of great anxiety. Sharing advice and recipes with her audience, however, she is proving to women everywhere that you can still enjoy yourself and not let illness define you.
“It is this positivity and this empathy that brings women together with common purpose. With so many taboos out there, it’s easy to suffer in silence and often to feel very alone. But social media creates an environment in which we soon come to understand that we’re not the only one with a given issue.”
“There are some really brave women out there who use that environment for good. They’ve exposed themselves to considerable risk but they’ve also broken down barriers and found the positives. A problem shared is a problem solved is quite apt in this case. Influencers using their visibility to bring women together and to change the way we think, feel and act.”
Creating a career
Setting their own career ambitions and rules, women influencers can put themselves on an equal footing with men when it comes to pay and opportunities.
With family life and the desire to travel or to work from home, many women need a flexible working environment. Social media gives women influencers that flexibility, with networks of like-minded business women and mums creating digital content on the go from their mobile devices.
From sponsored posts to brand ambassadorships, these women are paid to endorse and produce creative content for brands and products. Others are realising an even broader potential, setting up their own agencies or collectives and mentoring and training others to be successful influencers.
“You only have to look at entrepreneurs, such as Zoella or Grace Beverely who have branched out into creating their own products to know that career potential is almost limitless,“ said Amelia.
Fitness influencer Grace Beverly has not only ventured into workout guides for her followers named the GraceFitGuide but has since released protein powders and a collection of resistances bands, straps and pads all known for their high quality and fair price points.
“Influencers have highly engaged followers, many looking for guidance on how to live and what to buy through reviews and recommendations, and other creative types seeking advice on how to build a successful influencer career.”
“So, influencers are using platforms, such as Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook much like a CV, portfolio or website. With the ability to sell directly to customers and target audiences through these platforms, women have monetized the followings they have built.”
Generating body positivity
Many of us are affected by the way we look, especially in an age where self-photography is so widespread. In fact, 1 billion people are using the photo app Instagram every month, making it the world’s largest image-sharing space. And, increasingly, it’s an important tool for influencers who are actively trying to help others feel more confident in their appearance.
Demi Donnelly is a great example. In a recent Instagram post, she shared an image with her 59K followers showing her in a lounge underwear set and saying she was originally going to delete the post as the words “fat”, “saggy” and “lumpy” came to mind.
But then, inspiringly, she described how she had stopped herself, told her followers that “my body is my body” and implored women everywhere to “stop being so hard on themselves and enjoy it.”
Amelia said: “The greatest thing about this post was the feedback she got. Fans said she looked happy, confident, stunning and beautiful, showing that, if we embrace and celebrate who we are, women around the world will become more confident and acknowledge their own beauty.”
Another Influencer inspiring her followers is Youtuber and singer Tallia Storm. Motivating her fans to be courageous with fashion and with life, she speaks often about “putting your dreams into action.” That positive energy was harnessed in full by a campaign she recently ran with healthcare brand Dove in their #ArmsUp campaign.
Research carried out by Dove had found that 86% of UK women felt bad about their underarms, so the influencer shared beautiful images of her underarms covered in star applique. Unsurprisingly they went viral.
Looking at all these examples and more, Amelia is convinced of the transformative power of influencers: “They are becoming more and more of a force for change. They share their experiences openly, around body image, illness, business success or women’s rights. Whatever the issue area, they help other women feel good and create environments in which they can support each other.”
“That’s collective individualism at its best. Women spreading positivity and empowerment worldwide.”