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Celebrity influencers no match for an expert’s view.

Celebrity influencers no match for an expert’s view

This week I saw former boxer Anthony Mundine tweet the following, “Don’t vaccine your kids period! The government bully you into vaccine! Do your research on the s*@t & watched the documentary vaxxed”. While Anthony Mundine is not in the social media stratosphere of a Kardashian, he still has over 45,000 followers of his Twitter account. Earlier this year, celebrity chef Pete Evans of My Kitchen Rules fame, pointed his 1.5 million Facebook followers to a podcast interview with US anti-vaccination campaigner Dr Sherri Tenpenny.

While Mundine and Evans are probably to be trusted on their views on how to fight a southpaw or a recipe for a raw beetroot salad, their views on vaccinations are dangerous and at odds with probably 99.9% of health professionals.  These examples from Mundine and Evans are not isolated and illustrate a dangerously blurring line between what is qualified expert commentary and what is un-qualified influencer opinion. And it’s also why, now more than ever, experts with proven qualifications and experience are in demand.

Adding to the threat of reckless opinions and statements of “fact” being flung about by social media influencers and celebrities, is the possibility that they’re being paid to spruik an opinion or give a personal endorsement of a product or service. Anyone who knows anything about the ill-fated Fyre festival, will know how pear-shaped things can go when influencers and celebrities are paid to promote a product. In the US and the UK, influencers are legally required to disclose that a social media post has been sponsored by a third party. There’s no such requirement in Australia nor are there any rules stipulating the use of the hash-tags #ad or #spon.

It’s possible to be known as a social media influencer and as an expert, but there’s a level of responsibility that goes with that tag of “influencer”. It implies the ability to persuade and with that, perhaps alter an individual’s opinions and even change their behaviour – it’s not something to be taken lightly.  Having a massive or even modest following, doesn’t give anyone cart blanche to promote and spruik out of date views, dodgy products or unsafe practices.

An expert’s views and opinions are the often the result of years of study and experience. Real experts don’t stray outside their area of expertise, lest they find themselves commenting on an area that’s not their forte or in their realm of knowledge. Real experts don’t make outlandish and unsupportable statements. Real expert’s opinions can’t be bought by a third party and real experts don’t abuse their position to mislead or promote dangerous fringe views or conspiracy theories. Experts trade in knowledge, while the social media influencers and celebrity’s currency is social status and follower numbers.

In this era of “fake news” and the 24/7 news cycle, media is under increased pressure to find trusted expert commentary that is credible, based in fact and experience. That’s why a platform like Media Stable has become a trusted resource for all forms of media across the country. Our experts are vetted, our content is based on fact and of it’s opinion, it comes from a qualified and experienced authority.  There’s little likelihood that we’ll see a slow in growth of the influencer and celebrity social media juggernaut, but as more examples from the likes of Mundine and Evans come to light, the more crucial an expert’s views and standing will become in society and in the media.

By John Solvander, Director of Media Engagement, Media Stable.

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