September 20, 2018

Some Thoughts On The Influencer Debate… And Where (And What) I Stand For

the influencer debateThis blog post contains affiliate links | For more info, visit my Disclosure Page.


is there an influencer debate… or is it just me?


I’ve changed the title of this post a few times in the process of writing it but in the end, decided to stick with the whole influencer debate angle. Because it’s mostly me that’s having the debate. With me.

When I hear (or get called) the “i word”, I alternate between cringing and just shrugging my shoulders… because that’s why brand hire us isn’t it? To harness and utilise our creativity to help get their message/product/campaign out there. To influence.

Except only a very small portion of my content is sponsored by brands.

The thing is, back in the day, I didn’t start a blog to become an influencer. They didn’t exist in the form they do now. Like so many others I know, I grew into blogging but since turning it into a business, I guess I’ve become one. I’m a Micro-Influencer apparently. This is due to my numbers they tell me. Ah numbers – Insert eye roll emoji here – I thought I’d left those bad boys behind when I left Finance!

But back to the debate section of the title because I sense there is some debate to speak of. Much is being said about how social media (Instagram in particular), is portraying a plethora of perfect worlds, thereby topping up our inadequacy and self-doubt pots on a daily basis.

I agree.


amanda start coffee and cashmere

online stylist wearing lois avery cashmere


I’ve ordered Katherine Ormerod’s book this week – Why Social Media Is Ruining Your Life – and I can’t wait for it to arrive. I’ll devour with interest her thoughts on the subject, because Oh My does she ever have a point. As one who knows exactly what goes into getting The Shot and just how much the picture can belie what’s going in her own head at the time, I do sometimes wonder what those who don’t understand the whole curation/staging thing must think.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m in a good place with it all 99% of the time.

I’m nearly 50, wear a dress size 12 – 14, am a micro-influencer and don’t live in London, which, when you add those things together (told you – numbers!), generally excludes me from working with many of The Big Hitter Brands who helped birth the cult of the influencer. I don’t agree with how that particular equation pans out but it’s typically true in lots of cases… and is possibly a whole other blog post in itself!

I live a busy and fulfilled family life that includes a long-suffering Instagram husband who regularly get short shrift from the females in his life, a demanding teen daughter (all teens are demanding) and a pretty Labrador with a penchant for eating all manner of disgusting things at any given opportunity.

So yes… I sure as sh*t know that The Gram doesn’t depict real life!


autumn neutral outfit with cashmere and denim

S T Y L E  C R E D I T S :   Sunglasses – RayBan Clubmaster c/o David Clulow | Cashmere Shawl in Classic Cappuccino – Lois Avery c/o | Cashmere Boyfriend Sweater – hush (old gift) : same in black for AW18 here | Bamboo Reusable Cup – Cuboo c/o | Nails – Essie in Wicked | Jeans – J.Crew | Push Lock Bag – Cambridge Satchel Company c/o | Watch – Cate & Nelson c/o | Shoes – Zara (old) : similar here

take out coffee in a reusable bamboo cuboo cup


But at the same time, I both love it and can see it’s pitfalls if we don’t use it responsibly. Both as consumers and publishers. Sometimes it (occasionally along with blogging), makes me have The Thoughts.

Oh my – The Thoughts. If you can think of a particular blogging/Instagram/Influencer thought right now then you can bet your flat white on a marble tabletop that I’ve had it. So much so that I’m beginning to wish I could silence this season of self-interrogation once and for all.

I’ve always blogged and ‘Gram’d with a sense of conscience and I hope that that’s not something I really need to say. Except I really do feel the need to say it loud and clear at the moment. And in deciding to say it, I tried to think if there was one particular thing that set me off.

I can’t pinpoint the thing. Maybe it’s been brewing ever since I decided to slow things down a little at the beginning of this year. Maybe it was having a bit more time to think over the summer holiday and to observe the goings on in Influencer World a little more closely. Maybe it – scrap that – definitely, it  comes from a place of self doubt. There’s that other 1% from up there ↑.


neutrals monochrome coffee and cashmere


Maybe it’s from pitching some ideas and receiving a couple of No’s from brands. Nothing will induce that “Okay then… maybe I’m no longer considered relevant!” voice when someone tells you No Thanks… and you still have those business costs to meet every month.

For sure The Thoughts are linked to the fact that as influencers, we’re seen by and large as purveyors of the Buy This, Get That, Be More This culture. Are we nothing more than stylish pushers? Am I encouraging you to form a shopping habit when you really don’t want or need one?

Add to that the growing discomfort around fast fashion and an awareness of our consumerist footprint (both rightly so) at every step of the way and you’d probably agree that surely, style blogging in particular might be the proverbial bubble just waiting to burst? Gosh, it’s all doom & gloom around here today!

It’s not. Stick with me. It gets better…

When I started out, blogging was the main event and it was more than enough of a platform to get your voice out there or launch any manner of creative concept or business. With the subsequent explosion of social media and the boom of the need for immediacy, there are now so many more ways we can do this.

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that pretty soon, it can all start to feel like noise. Too much noise.

Click this. Swipe Up for that. Visit my profile link and you’ll get straight to where I’m directing you.

I sure as hell do it. We all do it because, as more voices are added to the game, the noisier it gets. And when it gets noisier, the temptation is to get increasingly shouty to ensure that you’re still being heard.


online stylist cambridge satchel crossbody bag in black

nude black Zara shoes that look like Chanel


I got into a thoughtful conversation about my doubtful musings here with some Instagram friends last week and it felt like a bit of a relief to get The Thoughts out there if I’m honest. And helpful to gauge other’s opinions on how they perceive the situation too. The irony that I used one of the most prolific social media platforms to add my thoughts into the “noise” is not lost on me by the way.

Maybe The Thoughts are in part about the current influencer debate but perhaps the larger element of questioning comes from me. After ten years in, it’s no surprise that I find myself in a place of self-interrogation. And rightly so as I definitely feel different about life in general at 49 than I did at 39.

I sat down with my wise (and extremely talented) friend Laura recently and told her how I was feeling. At first I found it difficult to articulate but as our conversation went on, I think the words “more heart needed”, “too much noise” and “self-worth” came up more than a few times from both of us.

How to solve it? I honestly have no clue. There is no one grand solution for me and my blog at this stage but there are smatterings of thoughts and ideas that I’m leaving to marinate to see what happens. We’ll see.


In the meantime, here are some things I know to be true and that will confirm where I stand…


When it comes to style and taste, age is a number but not one that’s part of my equation. Style is one of the most personal expressions you can have and having a passion for what you wear doesn’t make you shallow. Its makes you creative and brings along with it a defined sense of self.

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I’ll only ever write about, link to and work with brands here, or on Instagram, that I love and would purchase from myself. And in most cases, I already purchase from them.

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When it comes to products that I link to within my (non-sponsored) content, the majority of them will be affiliate links as this another way I can facilitate an income from blogging. Albeit a pretty small portion of income that’s drip fed over a LONG period of time.

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I’ll tell you up front in posts if the content is sponsored or if it contains affiliate links. ASA best practice states that as bloggers we’re all supposed to let you know this before you engage with our content. Because…

… I’m not ashamed that I make money from affiliate links or occasional sponsored content here and on Instagram. I integrate them into the stories I tell or things that I share here on the blog and I think that after all these years, I’ve learnt to do this well. Does the affiliate product link to the Bella Freud jumper that I wore in the Autumn Happiness List post count as me influencing you? I guess it does. Nonetheless it forms part of the business side of the blog and is therefore not (and shouldn’t be) a dirty little secret. There’s additional info on my Disclosure page here if you’d like to know more.

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layering neutral cashmere for autumn


I love, love. love neutrals, monochrome, cashmere and coffee! Not to be “trendy” or “current” – it’s simply the direction that my taste has followed and finally settled on over the years. Neutrals and monochrome are easy, no brainers when it comes to getting dressed, cashmere makes me happy when I wear it and coffee is a necessity once you become a parent. I believe every child should come with a free Nespresso machine. Seriously.

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When I agree to accept a gift from a brand, it’s because I love it, am happy to share it with you & therefore, happy to declare it. If I receive an unsolicited gift that I don’t want or like and it’s of considerable value, I’ll ask the brand if they want me to return it. Otherwise it gets donated to friends or a charity shop.

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I love a good wardrobe edit. This is not news! But I don’t bin the things that I no longer wear (and never have done). Any unwanted clothing, whether it’s been gifted or purchased, now gets passed on to various friends or donated to my local charity shop. I tried eBay a couple of times but honestly I don’t have the time that it takes and I got put off by a couple of dishonest users.

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I no longer feel that every single outfit post has to contain all current, available-to-buy items. Now it’s more about the items I possess having longevity for my own wardrobe and me putting a few looks out there for you to take styling inspiration from if you wish. If an item isn’t current or has sold out, I try to include as near as possible alternatives when I can find them.

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I’ve stopped attending blogging related events that don’t serve you or me. When I say “serve you” I mean –  what will you get out of it other than seeing what I get up to via Instagram Stories? Can I find a way to turn it into relevant and interesting content later on? Is the event to do with a brand or venue I absolutely love and would happily recommend to you?

And when I say “serve me” I mean how much time will I need to take out of my work schedule to attend? Do I already have a working relationship with that brand? Am I going to end up financially out of pocket to essentially take a day out to promote another business? Because I’m a business too. And last but by no means least, does it clash with a more pressing family need at home.


forty something style blogger amanda start


Getting Back To My Why


To steer through these choppy waters I’m trying hard to remember my Why. Why did I start a blog?

Because I wanted to write.

Because I loved fashion.

Because I believe that sharing positivity, small joys and simple pleasures brings 360 degrees of happiness.

Because (and I didn’t know it at the time), I wanted to fulfil a creative void.

Because I live to feel inspired.


Where is the why at now?


I still love to write. If you’re still with me (thank you!), can you tell by the length of this post?!

I love style more than fashion – it lasts longer and never expires.

The small joy sharing thing keeps on going full circle. I find one and share it with you. You love it  because it makes you happy and you share one back with me. I get happy. I look for more small joys to share… and around we go.

I enjoy seeing how creative I can be when it comes to composing images and telling stories.

Since building a small but perfectly formed following, I’ve come to know that if I discover a new brand or business, I can pretty much bet that lots of you will love it too. A couple of my favourite cases in point – hero and Lois Avery Cashmere.

I’ve come to appreciate and love the sense of community that comes with all of this. When you work at home by yourself for the most part, the fact that blogging and social media have brought some incredible women into my life who I now count among my friends is truly a bonus.

Because I live to feel inspired and love to inspire right back.


It’s as simple as that in essence and yet it all seems to have gotten so very complicated as time has gone on.

But then I guess doesn’t anything that’s worth sticking with?



I’m in it for the long haul (in case you hadn’t guessed!) and my ability to stay rests by and large with you. So I’d love to know what your thoughts are on any of the points raised here – do you see some things that you love or some that you’re really not okay with. Feel free to leave a comment below or drop me an email at onlinestylist@me.com with your thoughts and also, don’t forget to let me know if there’s any type of content you’d like to see more or less of here.

Thank you so much for reading all the way to the end! You deserve a medal… and a very large coffee!

Amanda xx


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21 comments on “Some Thoughts On The Influencer Debate… And Where (And What) I Stand For”

  1. Yes, yes, yes to all of this! You know I’ve been feeling the same. I feel almost like a rebellion is in order – hey, you, Instagram, see all those perfect people? Well, take a look at me! I’m scruffy! I have toddler hair! I can’t have a perfect home because i have two massive teenagers! I mean, it’s either that or go and get a proper job (something that I yell occasionally when it all gets too much). Big love – you’re blogging Mary Poppins to me, babes (practically perfect in every way).

    1. Becky – I flippin’ love you! Blogging Mary Poppins! (And I did get the chimney sweep in last week to sweep the wood burner chimney so I guess now it’s official!
      You’re so sweet! I just think some things need to be said and it was one of those “Do I or don’t I publish” posts. I’m sure many are feeling the same way too if truth be told.
      Here’s to keeping it real, a bit more mindfulness and more helpings of heart too.
      A xxx

  2. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this post because I know full well that when the lovely Amanda has something on her mind, chances are it will emerge as a considered set of humble but articulate arguments on the why and the how. This post is no exception! I can almost imagine the chat around the table with Laura, because knowing both of you, and seeing the shift in tone of your online presence in recent months, I can see what thoughts might arise. For what it’s worth, I have given this a lot of thought too (quelle surprise!) and have listened to commentary on it, and read widely. There’s no doubt there is a backlash brewing in some quarters of this online extravaganza we find in blogging, instagram, storying and so on. I follow it will interest and dip my toe in now and then, but I am not a slave to it because I made a conscious decision a while back not to be. That’s why I only write and post when I want to, and have something to say, and never, ever check my stats! Plus – and I guess this is the nub of it – I am not selling anything. I am not working with brands; it’s just me and the brand of me. I grapple with whether this makes me a fair-weathered blogger or a sensible one.

    There is such a degree of consciousness around EVERYTHING right now, about being ‘woke’ and understanding the implications of everything we say and do, and I worry it provokes a form of self-censure, that will lead to stagnation. No fresh ideas, no fresh opinions. You, as a seasoned commentator, shouldn’t have to apologise for promoting a ‘be better, buy more’ service. It is optional after all! Whilst you are an influencer, you are not forcing anyone to buy anything. As ever, by acknowledging your role in this, you are streets ahead of others who carry on with wild, ‘buy this!’ abandon. It shows your acumen; and that you’re gracious and never one to sell out. I think that integrity is what has kept people coming to you for so many years! But I would also say – part of being at the age we are (did someone say menopause!?) is to ‘own’ what we do and not feel sorry for it and not to worry! Do what you do! Write what you write (I know I do!). Be ‘woke’ but don’t be sorry; it’s all good and it’s all going to be OK!

    Finally, I think we all understand that instagram isn’t real, and compared to those mucky, non-curated, grainy images with polaroid filters we used to post back in the day, what we have now is a turbo-charged version, with slickness and finesse, and as consumers we must manage our own responses to that. I haven’t read Ormerod’s book yet, but have seen her recent posts with the ‘behind the scenes, I was so miserable then’ commentary, and it is shocking to think that we all consumed what she portrayed, without question. The onus is on us to take it all with a pinch of salt. And breathe….

    Phew; long post, long comment!! As ever…loving your musings.
    Lou x

    1. Ah Lovely Lou – you know me too well! Thank you as ever for your wise and thoughtful words – you know I consider you to be the sage when it comes to most matters in life these days!
      You’re right – I think theres a backlash brewing but maybe not for everyone in the online world of blogging (and the dreaded i word!). When you see a storm brewing it induces a kind of panic that you’ll get caught up in it I guess. And this causes you to lose sight of two important things – you’re actually doing a good job and you can continue to get on and do it. And own it! I think self-doubt is the culprit (again) and had me thinking that what I’m doing is losing value to people. The responses I’ve had here, on Instagram and via email have lifted me so much – it’s wonderful and heart warming. Moving forward I’m focusing on the positives and what I love. And whilst I have to keep an eye on whats current in Blog Land (La La Land?!) I’m not letting it lead or effect what I want to do. And maybe a side project is needed to keep the creativity fresh too – who knows?
      Thank you as ever for your wisdom and support – I’m lucky that blogging brought you to me!
      Much love, Amanda xx

  3. You are such an engaging writer. I love your blogs and feel your strength lies in your writing and considered thoughts. You have talents that will endure in whatever direction you decide to take them, should the Instagram bubble burst. In the meantime I hope you continue with your very readable blogs.

    1. Sue thank you so much!!
      I truly love the long form, blog writing part and whilst I love Instagram, I feel it has made us all fast moving consumers of all things bite-sized. Hence I guess more brands investing in Instagram than they are blog posts. But I’m keeping going for sure. This blog is mine and I own it. No one but Mark Zuckerberg owns Instagram and that’s one important fact to always have in the back of our minds I guess.
      Thank you so much for your words of support and encouragement!
      Amanda xx

  4. Personally, I still love to read a blog and have been a long time reader of yours. The Insta world is so manipulated and the whole ‘look at me’ and ‘buy, buy, buy’ nature of it is getting increasingly unappealing. I have culled my following to accounts that speak to me. Good for you for trying to balance life, we all struggle. I hope you find a peaceful way forward. In the mean time, pictures of Labradors on beaches and a nice cashmere scarf will never go amiss!

    1. Katy – I hear ya!! The Insta world is definitely manipulated whichever way you look at it – everyone’s feed is made up of what we choose to share, including mine. Katherine Ormerod’s book has been brilliant in helping me to delve deeper into something I thought I already had a handle on if I’m honest. I completely agree that there should always be a place for cashmere and labradors on beaches and thank you so much for your continued support. It really does mean so much!
      Amanda xx

  5. You know, I don’t follow very many “influencers” (maybe two?) for one reason and one reason only – because most of the ones I come across seem to do nothing else but push a product – post after post, nor are they very good about drawing me in with their writing (or grammar, punctuation, and spelling). You, whether you are doing sponsored content or not, let YOU shine through and you know how to write compellingly and that is one of the many reasons why, after all these years, I’m still here (oh sure, I COULD comment more and will try to do better!).

    All that being said, you don’t “influence” me, mainly because most, if not all, the brands you work with aren’t easily available over here (I assume). Instead you inspire me. You inspire me to look at the clothes I own – or are shopping for – differently. I am inspired by some of your outfits and think, “Wow, I never would have thought I’d like that look!” and may then try to replicate it, if it works in my life.

    So, keep it up Amanda, you are doing a fantastic job! And I will be over here reading, being inspired and trying to #ElevateTheEveryday (I LOVE this mantra!).

    1. Gigi – everything you say here makes me very happy! I love that the blog provides inspiration in any shape or form as I know how I feel when I come across a blog or an Instagram feed that truly inspires me. As opposed to one that’s been set up just to push product. And you hit the nail on the head with the you shining through thing. Whilst Online Stylist is a blog, I am still (and always will be, me and I’m it’s voice. And as for the whole bad grammar thing – it must be my age but Grrrr… don’t get me started on that!
      Here’s to keeping on keeping on and thank you as always for popping back and still reading!
      Much love,
      Amanda xx

  6. I love reading your long form posts and this was no exception. I think we all know some influencers are purely in it to shill and they’re always after the latest must have or upgrading everything they own every 3 months- that’s why blogger snark sites exist.
    I think influencer can and should start to extend to influencing people to live intentionally, to be greener etc ans for it to be positive and not just to buy buy buy.

    It’s such an interesting topic. Loved this article.

    1. Thank you Fiona – this is so true! I’m loving the influx of blogs that now promote more intentional and minimal living – it’s like the opposite of how blogs began in the first place. I think we can all still “upgrade” our values or buy something if it truly enhances our life or makes us happy but the key is thoughtfulness and intention. More of this!
      Amanda xx

  7. I read the whole thing. Lol..but I love your account that’s why I’m with you. I love your vlogs hint, hint ready for a new one when you can:) And as far as ads go, well I’m attracted to the way you and some other bloggers I follow (real people) post your ads. Unlike the celebrity’s and I mean certain celebrities that I have blocked because I don’t even want to accidentally come across their fitfabfun ads or TemiTea drink me and you’ll be slim ads…sighhhh. So please keep up the good work as long as you can and for as long as you feel like it. And btw Marilyn Monroe was a 12-14 and well we all know she had a gorgeous figure. So please, you look good to me and to the rest of us normal real women. Thanks for sharing.xoxo

  8. Yes! There definately is an influencer debate! Some are asking whether we prefer Instagram instead of blogs – my answer is the same – while I like a bit of fast food (instagram), I’m much more into a good proper sit down meal (blog posts). If I had to give up one it’ll be Instagram!
    As for me, I’m closer to 50 than 40, a size 12, don’t live near London and am the owner of a dog who is known to eat disgusting things! I’d say that means that we have enough in common for me to be influenced by you. I love the fact that your posts are about a range of things not just clothes. I also love that you show outfits with older clothes, that we’ve seen before, that is after all our reality.
    I have no problem what so ever with bloggers making a living, after all in the ‘olden’ days, we’d happily pay for a magasine knowing that we were helping pay some people’s wages. I will try and use affiliated links where appropriate and have absolutely no problem with sponsored content. Like other bloggers I follow, I am confident that you don’t promote things you wouldn’t buy.

    1. Sue – you have articulated things that I think a lot of people must be feeling. Instagram is definitely fast food and I still love coming across a long and thoughtfully written blog post. Sometimes they feel few and far between though. The things “in common” are what binds online communities together and I think without the Me Too factor, pretty pictures don’t really mean all that much. Thank you for always supporting and I hope to provide tons more inspiration for a long time to come!
      Amanda xx

  9. Love the long posts, your musings always make so much sense. In fact the sentence “Style is one of the most personal expressions you can have and having a passion for what you wear doesn’t make you shallow. It makes you creative and brings along with it a defined sense of self.” Really resonated with me, I’ve been toying with a career change much as you did when you started your blog. I need a creative outlet and think the world of interiors is where I might fit and enjoy but I have been holding back for so long as I think the underlying “ perception” of this as being shallow rather than an expression of creativity has stopped me. So I felt so energised reading this particular part as you perfectly explained how I need to reframe my thoughts and move on! Keep up the great and enjoyable work! X

    1. Hi Amber,
      Thank you and I’m so glad that particular set of words resonated! I get really cross when people assume there is a shallowness at play just because you care about your own (or indeed your home’s) appearance. As with most things in life, isn’t it always better to care than not? I say Go For It and take that leap when it comes to finding your creative outlet – you never know what’s around the corner. Here’s to re-framing and moving on with gumption!
      Amanda xx

  10. I never feel like I am reading anything staged Amanda! I just feel like I am reading s nite from a friend who is true to herself and her style, and leads a normal life with the usual stresses and strains!
    That’s why we love ya’ !!

    1. Helen thank you so much – this makes me very happy indeed! It must be the reality thing too but I *always* relate to those who share the stresses and strains of life. Whilst we don’t have to share every feeling as we have it (and lets face it, who wants to read that all the time), by sharing what we’re with comfortable with, we might be helping someone else too.
      Thanks so much for your support as always!
      Amanda xx

  11. Now that we all spend so much time on Instagram I read far fewer blog posts than I used to but I always make time to read your posts Amanda. I love the directness and honesty of your writing. As someone who is also nearly 10 years into this journey, and prone to similar musings, your posts always makes me wish you lived just round the corner from me so we could meet up for regular coffee dates and blogging chat.

    1. Helen – thank you – that is the loveliest thing you can say! I know that when I read something and it makes me want to meet the person in real life, then it’s done the job! It seems we have lots in common and I think your blog (and Instagram) is just beautiful and calming. You have the minimal vibe that I love completely nailed. I hope we do get to meet up in person one day – I’m sure we’d have so much to chat about!
      Amanda xx

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