Businesses 'losing expensive products' to influencers who promise promotion on social media

Abi Haywood with her mug inspired by one of Princess Diana's jumpers, Abi Haywood credit
Abi Haywood created this unique mug inspired by one of Princess Diana's jumpers Credit: Abi Haywood

A woman has set up a "Tripadvisor-style" system for businesses to review social media influencers after claims people have been "blocked" and "ignored" after gifting expensive products in exchange for promotion.

Ceramicist Abi Haywood from Cardigan decided to create a spreadsheet where independent businesses and artists could review influencers. It has since been dubbed a 'Tripadvisor' for content creators.

She said a review system was greatly needed because there is no official regulation to stop influencers from accepting products from small businesses and then failing to promote them. Some of these products could include handmade items like crochet clothing or knitwear.

Abi Haywood creates unique ceramics which she sells on social media Credit: Abi Haywood/Big Jugs Abi

Abi told ITV News, "I saw somebody who gave away a jumper which took 20 hours to knit, so it would've been worth around £150. Then the influencer who she sent it to blocked her and did not promote the jumper, like she had previously agreed to."

"I've just been seeing it more and more, especially like with so many people starting businesses over lockdown. It's like a lot of young independent makers, particularly women makers.

"There's no workplace standards to do with things like this. So it's all really done with like a pat on the back and shaking the hand - kind of just like a trust agreement.

"Some people use contracts, some people don't. So I just felt like there was a need for something to warn of the people of how this was happening.

"I feel like public reviews are normalised in every other field, especially for self-employed people, if you go to a massage therapist, you review them, but it's just not normalised within influencer marketing. So I decided to create this open review system online."

Abi Haywood set up a review service for influencers Credit: Abi Haywood

Some of the reviews on Abi's spreadsheet have been positive as some artists and designers were pleased with the services of influencers.

Around 715 million people use Instagram across the globe and this number is constantly growing. It means there is a large potential audience that can view adverts or promotions from influencers.

There are around 100,000 influencers in the UK and more than 20 million worldwide. Research from Statista predicted that the global Instagram influencer market would grow to more than £2 billion in 2020.

Charlotte Anstee is a fashion influencer and content creator from Caerphilly, who lives in Cornwall. She told ITV News she is "fully supportive" of Abi's review system.

Charlotte Anstee said influencers should be supportive of small businesses Credit: Charlotte Anstee/A Fashion Oddity

Charlotte said, "I've seen a lot, especially through TikTok.

"Small businesses will share the items that they've sent. They will explain that they sent this jumper to a blogger who messaged them first. They promised they would do Instagram stories and 'grid content' in exchange for the product, but then they never posted anything and just ghosted and blocked them.

"I can see why it gives us a stigma, it definitely gives us a bad name. It's one thing to rip off a huge corporate company and not post their content but to take handmade products and not really follow through and not really give them the press that they thought they were getting... it's taking it to a whole new level."

Charlotte recently started doing social media marketing work for small, sustainable businesses.

She said: "Social media promotion is a lot more cost-effective than traditional marketing. If the right influencers share your product and bring relevant followers to a businesses page it can grow a business overnight." 

Homemade items can take hours to make and are often worth a lot of money Credit: Abi Haywood

Abi said she hopes her reviewing platform will warn certain influencers that "they can't get away with doing this anymore".

She added, "The influencers' protection is the fact that they have a massive following. So I just think that there is a big power imbalance there and something needed to be done to give a bit of power back to the people who are making things for them."