The New Conscious Influence Hub: We Share the Responsibility

Anja Lapčević, Kingfluencers’ Chief Influence Officer, has a vision to encourage conscious behavior in influencer marketing. Working with Barbara Fry, Anja recently co-founded Conscious Influence Hub (CIH), a non-profit NGO. Kingfluencers’ Content Contributor Megan Bozman spoke with Anja about the new organization and conscious influence in general.

The Growing Importance of Social Media as communication medium

Anja explains her vision,

We need to be aware of the relevance of social media — both professionally and privately. What started as a fun and exciting platform is now one of the most relevant communication channels for not only individuals, but also companies and politicians.

As social media grows in importance, so do the dangers that come along with it and the responsibility we all share towards our communities and society as a whole because the information or content we share can have real consequences, including people‘s decisions and mental wellbeing.

I realized that over the past few years, and especially 2020, social media has become an important and serious medium, especially for younger generations. It’s not just about posting selfies and showing your world how you want it to be perceived. Many of the topics frequently discussed are very serious, such as politics, mental health, and racism. It is more crucial than ever to be aware of the impact and consequences of our words and actions.

Responsibilities of Influencers

As soon as you’re active on social media you have a degree of responsibility, and as your community of followers grows — which can be an important goal for some people — , that responsibility becomes even more important. It might not seem as such, but at any moment you’re talking to your community as a role model, especially as an influencer. When people start turning to you for inspiration or advice this is even more the case. Every person then has the choice to make on how you want to use that influence and which example you want to set. One choice can be to use it for good. One recent example of using influence to help others is the Family of 5. The Travel Blog recently offered support to help promote the many small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, there are many issues where people and companies are left without guidance, such as the protection of children’s privacy, and dealing with bullying and disinformation. The lack of guidelines and standards for how people should use social media prompted Anja and Barbara to build a nonprofit organization.

Building an Influencer Code of Conduct

As the first influencer marketing agency in Switzerland, Kingfluencers recognized this issue and reacted by establishing the first code of conduct in summer 2020. Working with this new association, we will take additional steps and create a new Code of Conduct that includes best-practice guidelines and examples, posted on the Conscious Influence Hub.

Anja explains,

Our goal is for the organization to function like a think tank, a place where you can ask questions and hopefully get solutions to guide conscious behavior on social media and online in general.

Therefore, it’s very important to have the involvement of both influencers and experts in various fields. Our advisory board includes university professors, as well as people from NGOs and for-profit companies. I find the connection between the academic/ theoretical and practical worlds is often missing, and it’s very important to have the input of both. We’re working together to establish a strong foundation with the best of both worlds.

Affecting Not Just Jobs, But Lives & Society

Anja pointed out that the topic doesn’t just affect our jobs, but our entire lives, our society, and our children.

Becoming a mom was an extra motivation for me. In a few years, my child will face these problems, so I want to be part of the solution and luckily organizations like Kingfluencers and our founding members and advisors make that possible ? We can’t close our eyes; we have to be proactive looking for solutions. The association will hopefully be a part of a better future.

CIH’s goals include building an online tutorial and fostering a community with many influencers. After reviewing the tutorial and Code of Conduct, anyone who shares these values can join for free and connect with other community members. CIH will also participate on Instagram and LinkedIn, potentially adding other channels depending on the rate of growth.

Selecting Advisors & Influencers

When asked how advisors were selected, Anja explained that CIH sought reliable people who could serve as role-models. Commitment and desire to enact change were very important.

We would talk first, to hear if they share the same values and if they want to work together. Advisors are not paid. We need people who are motivated to work for a nonprofit. Our slogan is, ‘We Share the Responsibility.’ All of us have a responsibility in life, but especially on social media.

Additionally, it wasn’t important how many followers you have on social media. We wanted to work with new faces, rather than limiting ourselves to a few big stars. Many people are influencers because they influence people with messages and content. I also wanted to work with influencers who work on a variety of channels, addressing different topics and generations. The result is a diverse mix of people including influencers in sustainability, LGBTQ lifestyle, and food, a YouTube trendsetter, and someone from French-speaking Switzerland, so we represent all of Switzerland.

Co-founders Anja and Barbara also sought diversity in selecting advisory board members. The board includes representatives from a corporation, an NGO, and a university, along with a lawyer, an author of a book on ethics, and an influencer dedicated to fighting racism in Switzerland.

Anja stated, “I’m super proud of the association because I think we’re a colorful mix of people. I was so surprised to encounter so many people who are also very passionate about it. Although they’re busy people, I didn’t have to convince them, they were super committed.”

The Importance of Handling Mistakes

When asked about the possibility of conflicts arising among members, Anja replied,

I’m very much looking forward to having more people join and contribute to the discussions. Of course, you always have that risk of conflict. People aren’t like machines; you can’t program them. They make mistakes, and one of the most important topics in the Code of Conduct is handling mistakes.

It’s important to learn from each other how we handle mistakes. People don’t have to be perfect. Social media is changing all the time, we have to also develop guidelines and work on ourselves. We all have emotions and lives with real stories, and that’s the beautiful side of it.

A united force for positive change

Of course, it is also a prime goal of the Hub to raise awareness for a variety of themes and use our influencer network as a powerful force for positive change, not just by setting the example but also by pro-actively investing together and pushing good causes to the top of the agenda and increase people‘s awareness and participation in building a better society together. Over time we will set up campaigns aimed at tackling key issues like bullying and using the voices and platform of our members to inspire everyone to do better, turning social media more into a beacon of light where we can unite, learn and improve together.

You can learn more about the Conscious Influence Hub here or follow them on Instagram @ConsciousInfluenceHub.

Author: Megan Bozman, Owner @Boz Content Marketing

Turning social media into a force for good — A shared responsibility of all?

Edit 06.04.2021: Following the ongoing social media bans even after former President Trump’s term has ended, Trump has launched his own website, where he plans to update his fans with news from his wife, Melania Trump, and himself. According to The Guardian, the former US president will soon launch his own social media platform. “And this is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media, it’s going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does. But it will be his own platform,” claimed Jason Miller Senior Adviser to Donald Trump.

President Trump’s notorious Twitter account was suspended permanently on January 8th 2021. (Source: TechCrunch)

As it is known worldwide, current United States president, Donald J. Trump’s Twitter account has been suspended just two days after his supporters stormed the US Capitol last week. He is also banned from using other social media platforms such as Facebook, InstagramSnapchatYouTube, etc. at least until the end of his term. This has prompted an overall discussion about the impact of social media and how to act responsibly.

About social media responsibility

Since long time there has been a common understanding that all users are responsible for their own content and have to follow the platforms’ rules. Generally, it is prohibited to post anything that is disruptive, hateful, offensive, discriminatory, threatening, harassing, or defamatory. For a long time therefore social media companies have left most of the responsibility for the content that is published with the users and interfered almost exclusively in the case of very clear infringements such as sexually explicit or clearly violence-inciting posts.

The most newsworthy example of a public figure whose social media actions have caused nationwide as well as worldwide unrest is the current US president, Donald J. Trump. With 88 million Twitter followers and an account that was the 6th most followed on the platform before the ban, it is clear that his message has a wide reach, whether you agree with President Trump’s policies and beliefs or not. Furthermore, in 2020 he was the #1 most tweeted about person worldwide, according to Twitter. But for many, he is also the clearest example of how social influence can be misused. His actions, and those of others in his sphere, have sharpened the debate on what the rules or guidelines for responsible behavior on social media should be, particularly for politicians, and which role platform providers should play in enforcing these rules and hold users accountable. A good solution could be to increase awareness among social media users through constant education efforts. At the same time, there is a call by a large part of the population that more fact-checking, moderation, and monitoring by the social media platforms would be a good step forward, albeit without dictating too much how one is able to use his or her profile and which information a person can share — as long as no harm is being done.

The dangers of misinformation

One of the biggest potential dangers of social media is without a doubt the possible spread of misinformation, especially in areas where this can cause significant harm. When creating or sharing content on social media, integrity is always key. Not everyone has the best of intentions however and some even go as far to use social media and their influence to advance their own agenda, no matter the consequences.

A blatant example — COVID-19 and President Trump

Yes, Trump again. But here is why… From his 36 daily tweets, many of his devotees have taken every word as an official government statement, including his factually wrong tweets about the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to openly refusing to wear a mask (despite US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to wear masks since March 2020), these actions have caused nationwide protests against government policies to fight against the pandemic. After three months of refusing to wear a mask and his staff pleading him to set an example, President Trump has finally posted a picture of himself wearing a mask for the first time in public in July 2020. He also tweeted:

“We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.”

President Trump first wore a mask in public on July 11th 2020. (Source: France24)

But was it too little, too late? There is little doubt that the misinformation campaign has tremendously worsened the outcome of the pandemic so far. After the nationwide divide that President Trump’s tweets about COVID-19 have caused, Twitter took action and started monitoring his account. The social media platform started adding fact-checks on Trump’s tweets about the virus in May 2020.

The positive impacts of social media

Dispite the misusage of some people, we cannot forget that social media has had many positive effects on society and need to recognise its enormous potential for good. Certain movements have brought society together to strive for positive change. Social media gives people with good intentions and ideas a platform to unite and collaborate in order to try build a better society together. Influencers, people with a significant audience base, can thereby become powerful catalysts to advance the noble causes they embrace, no matter how big or small the cause is. Here are some examples:

#BlackLivesMatter

One incredible example is the #BlackLivesMatter movement which was started by George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chaivin who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. Since then, the world has come together on social media platforms to fight against Floyd’s injustice. In the year 2020, the second most popular hashtag was #BlackLivesMatter and George Floyd was the third most tweeted-about person in the world. Numerous influencers, including celebrities, around the world, have also come together and shared their support digitally and on their cities’ streets, protesting against the injustice. Even our Swiss influencers have taken action to bring awareness to the movement.

Many Swiss influencers, including Xenia (see above), have shown their support for the Black Lives Matter movement by posting completely black posts on June 2nd 2020 with the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday (Source: Instagram)

#SupportSmallBusiness

Another movement that has started since the global pandemic was the Support Small Business movement. With currently over 26 million Instagram posts under the hashtag #SupportSmallBusiness, influencers have shared awareness of the negative impacts of the pandemic and government regulations on small businesses, especially in the gastronomy field. An ideal example is the Family of 5 (FO5) Travel Blog, who started a #FO5Support initiative that supports small businesses in Switzerland through social media exposure. To learn more about the initiative, click here.

The Family of 5 Travel Blog shows support for Swiss small businesses in these tough times (Source: Instagram)

#StayHome

An additional movement that has started since the global pandemic is the #StayHome movement. Since the first lockdown in spring 2020, many of our Swiss influencers came together to encourage the importance of social distancing and staying at home by setting an example.

Zurich native Adriana Pokus de Leonhart took part in the #ZüriBliibtDihei campaign in March 2020 (translation from Swiss German: Zurich Stay Home), encouraging others to stay home in order to enjoy the summer ahead. (Source: Instagram)

Kingfluencers founder Fabian Plüss showed here how one’s home office can still be a productive and attractive workplace (Source: Instagram)

#Mask

Furthermore, numerous Swiss fashion influencers have promoted the wearing of masks by showcasing how stylish masks can be, like Luisa Rossi.

Stylist Luisa Rossi showed how stylish masks can be, especially when combined with chains. (Source: Instagram)

Responsible behavior tips

There are many creative ways to show social media responsibility and still have a voice and stand up for what one believes in. It is important to always maintain the highest level of integrity no matter how big or small one‘s audience is. All stakeholders have a role to play in this matter and users with significant influence need to set a leading example. Companies like Kingfluencers are also picking up the torch in the debate with an active effort to provide guidance to influencers and other players in the eco-system, in order to help realise the true potential of social media and social influence for people and brands alike. To learn more about how, stay tuned for some very exciting updates coming soon …

Author: Sherriene Redha, Marketing and Social Media Officer at Kingfluencers