It is human nature to seek reassurance and confirmation – we all want to be accepted. Never has this been truer than in today’s always on world. We are constantly seeking validation of our ideas and opinions. We want to know that we are making a good choice when we buy something online, whether this is a product, service or idea. We can only experience these choices as two-dimensional images, yet we are expected to part with our hard-earned cash. So, we seek validation and opinion.

Enter the Influencer, someone we trust, maybe even admire. We value their opinion, they have first-hand experience about what we want to purchase. Nobody wants to buy a bad product or a bad service. We only want an opinion that confirms our own beliefs. There is a Chinese proverb that roughly translates as ‘we only look for an opinion when we already know the answer’.

The Influencer puts themselves out there to be seen and to let us hear their honest and interesting opinions. We want to know whether and why the product is good or bad. Their experience gives us guidance and help along our purchasing journey. This is a mutually beneficial partnership, the Influencer gains validation for their opinions and the buyer has a trustworthy source of buying knowledge.

The Influencers online presence has a darker side however. By the very nature of their role, they put themselves out there and sometimes that is in harm’s way. If their opinion is counter to someone else’s or if someone takes a dislike to them, they can come under attack online. If you haven’t experienced what it is like to be attacked online, believe me, it is not a nice place. Even the most resolute and centred person will find it difficult not to take an online attack personally.

What happens when you suddenly discover that your Influencer is under attack. Suddenly, instead of seeing what they are up to, you see hateful comments and pure malice, not about the products they are working with,but about the Influencer themselves.

The question now is whether we rush in to their defence or do we sit quietly and stay silent until the storm has passed? Running to someone’s aid in the current online world can bring a huge amount of grief on you personally – ‘how dare you disagree with the moral consensus?’ Emotions run high and thoughts hit the internet before you can blink – no time for reflection. Normally it is an instant brain dump from angry, disgruntled and generally thoughtless people. They have no ability to filter their emotions before putting their fingers on the keyboard full of indignation and outrage. This a pattern that we see repeated over and over and over again.

When we study the data before, during and after an event like this we can understand when, how and why the event happened. What the data doesn’t show us however is the emotional and damaging cost that this can have on our Influencers. We value their opinions and want their guidance and it should be safe for them to share with us. All of us want a world where we can hear and see as many opinions as possible – we shouldn’t let the bad overpower the good. Having worked with numerous types of businesses over the past year and having read a lot of this data first-hand there are a couple of obvious learnings.

1. Let the bad guys go it alone. They are not interested in listening to reason or logical defence. No audience – no actor. Clear the auditorium and leave them to it. If you are an Influencer, this can be hard because it feels personal and it hurts because you are human and a good person. The bullies are not.

2. Life will normalise again – after the keyboard warriors are ignored good people will come back and feel safe to participate again. There are always four sides in every attack. People for and against on both sides – stay out of the conversation, there are no winners. Good people only get hurt if they join in because they will never go as low as the keyboard warriors to win an argument.

3. Influencers – the internet isn’t fair. Even though there are rules and laws and sometimes the bad people win. Being part of a community like RiskEye gives you shared knowledge and expertise to get through and remove the harm. It also gives you peace of mind because the costs are covered so you can defend yourself, it just won’t be in full public view.

Nicola Byrne