Georgina Rutherford, Marketing Manager, IMA
Social media is a powerful tool. It gives everyone a voice and has shaped our culture to be one in which we have never known so much about each other’s lives.
However, many people argue that the image-saturated way of living it encourages has negative effects on the way we see ourselves.
Where some see inspiration in gym selfies, others see unrealistic body standards that promote self-consciousness. Where some see motivation in bikini shots, others see the perpetuation of body-shaming.
But thankfully there are sources of light to outshine the dark corners of the internet, with tribes of amazing people who take to social media to spread the self-love. And brands are right behind them.
Fashion brand Belloya recently teamed up with influencer marketing agency IMA to help them launch their plus-sized label across the Netherlands and Belgium. They selected a group of confident female influencers to represent the brand as ambassadors. Most importantly, these are real women who radiate positivity, have an infectious zest for life and have established tight-knit social followings as a result.
A multimedia strategy was developed that put these ambassadors at its centre to build a Belloya community and help give associations with the term ‘plus-sized’ a verbal makeover. It would aim to move the public focus from ‘plus’ to ‘real-sized’ women who have more in common than the size of their clothes.
How? The #TogetherWeShine initiative seeks to encourage others to live life to the fullest through Q&A videos, ‘ways to wear’ posts and an intimate video series. Influencers Edith Dohmen (@stylehasnosize_official), Mayra Louise (@mayralouise) and Marianne Nykjaer (@mariannenukjaer) feature in the video series which invites the audience to sit down with them and talk about fashion, nights out, love and other topics we all find common ground with as women.
“Happy is not a dress size” - Mayra Louise, Influencer and Belloya ambassador
It is this power to speak and be heard by millions that makes influencers so important in the scheme of awareness and change. Unlike advertisers or journalists, they do not have restrictions or boundaries to follow. They can say what they like and move people as a result, which is a huge social responsibility for them as individuals.
Nevertheless it is also critical for brands to recognise this and use it for the greater good. Belloya is joined by other clothing brands across the globe that are using social media and #bopo or ‘body positive’ influencers to challenge stereotypes.
With #AerieReal, American Eagle’s lingerie sub-brand Aerie promised to ditch photoshop in favour of real, unretouched editorial content featuring #bopo influencers such as model Iskra Lawrence (@iamiskra). Lane Bryant’s new #ThisBody campaign sees celebrities and influencers alike tackle internet trollers head-on by responding to social media comments with ‘right back at you’ sass and confidence. UK fashion brand Simply Be featured style blogger Gabi Gregg (@gabifresh) in their AW16 advertisements and campaigned for model diversity at London Fashion Week with #FashionForEveryBody.
These efforts indicate that there are still walls to break down, but that they can be broken, by putting diversity and positivity at the fore. However brands should not forget the valuable role that influencers play in the equation.
While there’s no denying that celebrities such as Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer are doing their part to challenge bias, they are missing the relatability factor that may cause their messages to lose traction.
Social influencers may have smaller followings than celebrities but that’s the point. These figures are able to manage their communities and maintain a level of intimacy with their audiences that celebrities can’t achieve. They are credible, authentic and valued. Therefore they encourage higher levels of engagement with their followers, an untouchable feat for a celebrity personality.
The conclusion? Influencer marketing is an effective way to directly connect to and make an impact within niche audiences such as the body positive community. According to a study conducted earlier this year by Refinery 29, 56% of women said seeing body diversity in media made them feel better about themselves.
Brands and influencers alike have the capability to help women of all shapes, sizes and walks of life to look at themselves in the mirror and think, wow, I love what I see. So why don’t we use the videos, images, snaps and live streams and get to it?