Irish lodge/café bans bloggers after social media fight escalates

After bluntly calling out a vlogger for asking to stay at his hotel for free, a brash brand manager has been alternately praised or criticized on social media. Is it a ding for influencer marketing?

An argument between a hotel owner and vlogger has ignited a contentious discussion over influencer marketing.

The fight started when social media influencer Elle Darby—who has more than 90,600 followers on YouTube and more than 80,700 followers on Instagram—emailed Paul Stenson, owner of Charleville Lodge and White Moose Café in Dublin, Ireland. Darby asked for a free stay at Stenson’s property in exchange for posts about it on her social media profiles.

At the time Darby reached out, Stenson’s hotel and café had gathered a combined Facebook following of more than 186,000, along with more than 32,000 Instagram followers and roughly 80,000 Snapchat followers. After receiving the email, Stenson posted the following on his Facebook pages:

In it, Stenson posed the following questions:

If I let you stay here in return for a feature in your video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay? The laundering of your bed sheets? The water rates? Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?

The post—which garnered more than 14,000 “likes” along with more than 2,000 shares and more than 2,700 comments—started a heated discussion about how social media influencers should act, as well as the responsibility of the marketing professionals who interact with them.

It also caused many to criticize Stenson’s brash response to Darby, but Stenson doubled down on his remarks:

On Tuesday, Darby published the following response to Stenson’s viral Facebook post and ensuing discussion:

Though Stenson did not publish Darby’s name or handles, Darby said the incident caused her to get cyber bullied:

I cannot be clear enough that that post was literally aimed for people to be like, “What the hell,” “Oh my God, like what a disgusting freeloader, like who does she think she is, she’s so up herself, she thinks she’s God’s gift”

… I had hundreds of comments on my most recent Instagram post, people tagging their friends, saying, “This is the girl,” “Oh my god, what a disgusting freeloader,” “Pay your own way; you’re nothing special, babe”—like, all of these, I guess, degrading comments. Literally all because a group of people don’t necessarily understand the social media world.

Like, can I just say something? These were all people, that I saw, who were over the age of, like, 30-years-plus … literally internet bullying a 22-year-old girl.

On Wednesday, Stenson posted the following statement on Facebook and Twitter, saying all bloggers were now barred from his properties:

Many people on social media have rallied behind Darby and accused Stenson of reacting unprofessionally. However, many supported Stenson’s actions, lashing out at Darby for what they call entitled behavior. Though Darby disabled comments on her YouTube video, both she and Stenson have replied to comments on Twitter.

Though Stenson has received at least as much criticism as praise for his response to Darby—especially his decision to bar bloggers from his properties—he has also grabbed a lot of social media attention. Several news outlets took notice, too.

Business Insider reported:

On The White Moon [sic] Cafe’s profile on Snapchat, Stenson, who is currently on a trip to Amsterdam with his partner, said the issue “puts into question the authenticity of influencer marketing.”

“You cannot trust what these people are saying… She would have spoken nicely about the hotel only because she was getting it for free,” he added.

What do you think of Stenson’s response, Ragan/PR Daily readers? What would you have done in this situation?

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