The Octogenarian Grandma and the Unethical Pawnshop Owner

An octogenarian grandmother was cleaning out her home and in the clutter was a dusty old watch. She had no recollection of the watch’s history beyond the fact that her husband wore it on a few occasions with outfits he felt went well with the timepiece. She thought nothing of it and placed it in the box to take to the pawnshop. Once she arrived to her nearby shop she explained to the owner that she was just looking to get rid of a few old things and may as well get a dinner out of it. The owner happened to be a watch aficionado - a good trait to have in his line of work. He noticed this pristine, yet dusty, mass of metal and glass and refrained from showing his excitement. He immediately recognized the watch as something valued at around $3,000. Though he offered her $15 for it amongst the box of clutter. He didn't know that this woman has a grandchild who suffers chronic illness and her parents struggle to bring in a sufficient income. The value of that watch would have certainly helped that small family. He didn't care. He saw the watch and with it, a large profit to be made given her ignorance. After all, if she knew its value then she would not have presented it to him. She agreed to sell her collection for the grand total of $150 and walked out the creaking glass door. 

What this pawnshop owner had done was essentially theft. He had the knowledge of something’s value and took advantage of this individual in the name of his own profits. Regardless of how well his businesses had been doing, he ignored the ethical route and prayed on someone’s ignorance. In my eyes, he’s no better than the scam artists who we all deal with on a regular basis. 

What’s the point of this story? Many of you are that grandmother and you don’t even realize it. Businesses everywhere are siphoning off your value. Not every business is guilty of this, though many of them are. Social media has given a lot of power to people in terms of marketing value. If you have amassed a following then you have advertising value! Even if it’s just 10,000 followers, you have actual value. If you’re above 100,000 you have some serious value and should be getting paid well. 

You see, for the last year or so I’ve started to delve into the industry of social media influencing and I’ve learned a substantial amount. Something I have discovered how companies are preying on people who don’t know their value. The photography industry is one of the worst offenders in this. I was asked to be an ambassador for a certain large company last summer. I was just starting to take advertising gigs and realized there might be some value in this beyond just trade. I was working on campaigns for Disney, Pampers, Dole, and others. When I got the offer to be an ambassador for this photography company their offer was that I would “get” to have the title of an ambassador with a chance that I might do a trip with them, and I get 20% off their products. They wanted me to post about them once a month for a year. I’m not going to name the company because the point isn’t to take them down but to educate people on the theft. You see, at the time I had approximately 145,000 followers and growing. I had my current value at about $1,000 per post. Meaning, that they wanted about $12,000 in what I knew was my minimum value, for a discount and the potential of a plane ticket to some place in the US and a hotel stay for a couple nights. Let’s say that it was an expensive trip and was a potential grand that I’d get in an experience. They knew what I was worth to them. They’ve been playing the marketing game for decades. They knew the power of an audience and were trying to take advantage of me. 

This company has an entire ambassador program that preys on influencers who don’t know their actual value. They have them sign a year long contract to secure that they get this marketing for a certain length of time; probably in case the influencer grows wise to their tactics after they start. Some people think, “oh, WOW! This huge company wants me to work with them! That’s so cool!!!” Sure, that’s cool. Though people need to realize what their value is. This ambassador program has some people with a few hundred thousand followers and I’d imagine they’re not getting much in value. The terms weren’t very negotiable and that’s why I decided to turn down the offer. A year later and I’m glad I did. 

What I’m not happy about is the theft that these companies are committing. They are the unethical pawnshop owners. This isn’t just limited to this one company. Especially in the photography industry. I’ve spoken to a few photography companies and many of which try to make you think you’re worth less than you are. Not only in terms of your audience, but they try to license images for next to nothing - on trade and valued FAR under what it should be. I now calculate my licensed images off of Getty Images calculator and adjust from there. One company conned me into licensing 15 images for two years to be used on anything they wanted. Most licensed images are per project and based off of audience size. Though photography companies realize that there is always someone new enough to the world of photography and licensing that they’ll accept anything offered. 

This is a problem for the entire industry. You see, when companies devalue the people they work with, they’re devaluing themselves. An economy works by the movement of money and the decisions we make on where we put that money. If camera companies want to pay nickels to their artists then they aren’t helping grow the industry by funding these artists who help create value in the industry. By getting a tiny discount or licensing things at a fraction of the cost they’re the driving force in the race to the bottom. Without any revenue then no one can maintain their business and this is how an industry can die out. The photography industry needs to be extra careful about this since smartphones are largely removing people’s interest in cameras. 

There are also other businesses who approach me for advertising and make ludicrous offers. I had two clothing companies who wanted me to give them posts for a couple kid’s outfits within a week of each other. When I work with companies I get the product that’s needed to be in the images and then I also get paid on top of that.  That’s how it works. I have a moderate audience that see’s my images and this method of business helps me stay at home with my children. They both asked if I’d be an ambassador for them with many posts for just outfits. When I told them my prices they moved on. What they’re doing is moving from influencer to influencer praying to find that octogenarian grandmother who is naive of her own value. 

Why am I telling you this? Because in order to fight the theft people need to be educated on what their value is. Most influencers, small and large, likely have no clue that advertising is a half a trillion dollar industry world wide. Properly growing an audience and and maintaining their attention takes a lot of work. It’s a full time job and those who do it should be rewarded for their work. Likes have value, and this is it. Whether you’re marketing your own business or your advertising for someone else, the power of social media is bringing the power of an audience to everyone. Why do you think the FCC has started to get involved with influencers? Because they know that this is apart of an entire industry.  

I do want to make sure I mention that even in the midst of this warning is the understanding that there are good companies and organizations that do cherish the marketing value an influencer can offer. If I'm doing a sponsored post, they're helping my family. I've selected to work with them because they didn't undercut me and my value. If you see a sponsored post from me in the future, please look into them further. That's a simple way to support our little family of six. By looking into our sponsors and educating yourself on what they offer you are indirectly supporting me and my kids. Remember that. Thanks for reading.