Last weekend I made a terrible mistake.

My wife left me alone for three hours, and in that time I generated a full-scale social media storm.

And it all started when I posted a picture of my undies on Facebook.

Let me explain:

In my book I wrote about ‘how to live like a multi-millionaire right now’. Basically it involves spending your money consciously on things that will make you feel like a million bucks.

One way to do this is by splashing out and buying really comfy undies. After all, some people justify spending $8,000 on a 14-hour business class flight … why not fly business class in your undies every day?

(With such hard-hitting advice, is it any wonder my book has sold 300,000 copies?!)

Anyway, what I didn’t envisage at the time of writing was that enterprising underwear manufacturers would start sending me samples of their product in the post.

So a few weeks ago I went to my country town post office, where the Australian Post lady handed me a big box:

“Looks like more undies”, I said matter-of-factly, like it was completely normal.

She smiled nervously and avoided eye contact.

Just for kicks, I took a pic of the box — which had the underwear brand on the box — and uploaded it to my 107,911 followers on Facebook with the caption: “I think I’m the only finance guy who gets sent undies in the post. Second time this week.”

On my way home from the post office I rang my wife and told her about the undies.

Mrs Barefoot: “Hang on. Are you telling me that women are sending you their underwear in the mail?”

Barefoot: “No, honey. Underwear companies are sending them to me.”

Mrs Barefoot: “Oh! Well that makes sense. Of course, if they’d actually seen you in your underwear … they wouldn’t bother sending you any … ”

Barefoot: Frowning.

Mrs Barefoot: “… I mean, it’s clearly ridiculous that you would be an undies influencer … ”

Barefoot: “You can stop now.”

Mrs Barefoot: “I’m joking! But you’re an idiot for posting that picture. It looks like you’re being paid to promote their product.”

When I checked my Facebook feed … I realised she was right.

All hell had broken loose.

The first reply to my undies post was less than encouraging:

“Why are you posting this crap? Stick to finance or firetruck* off” (*the substitute word we use in front of our four-year-old).

And the comments went downhill from there. As I sat nervously on my verandah patting my trusty old sheepdog, people from the corners of the interwebs jumped in to bite me on the backside. It was like trying to placate an angry mob ready to burn me at the stake.

In my underwear.

(This incident is now referred to at Barefoot HQ as #undiesgate.)

The Rise of the Influencer

In the olden days, advertisers would buy ads in glossy magazines to try and influence readers.

Today, glossy mags have all but been replaced by social media (especially Instagram, with its 700 million users). Advertisers now pay social media influencers to create the ads, by posting a promoted pic with their product in shot.

It’s actually big business for social media starlets (generally those who are ridiculously good looking … or post pictures of ridiculously good-looking food). According to Bloomberg, brands will pay up to $US250 a post if you have 10,000 fans, $1,000 a post if you have 100,000 fans, and all the way up to $US300,000 for a single post if you’re a Kardashian.

Contrast this to my Instagram account, which has a total of three posts: a picture I took in 2012 of a busker playing the bagpipes while dressed as a duck, and, for reasons I don’t quite understand, two identical headshots of my 55-year-old editor, Wally.

Again, when it comes to social media I’m kind of clueless. However, #undiesgate aside, I know a thing or two about building a business, and I’m proud of being fiercely independent.

To prove it, let me drop my dacks and show you an email I received last year from a marketing company representing an Aussie bank.

The $9,000 Post

Hello Scott,

XXX Bank have tasked us to identify some social influencers who could boost the video views of their brand-new online documentary “All I Need: Is the Australian Dream Getting You Into Unnecessary Debt?” (YouTube/Facebook versions). We have come across your social media channels and, given your strong influence as a thought-leader in the financial sector and of course Australia’s most trusted finance expert, we would love for you to participate.

This is a paid opportunity of $9,000 and we can also offer the opportunity for your content to be amplified on the XXX Bank’s pages. We would love it if you were able to:

  1. Write and upload a blog discussing your own personal opinions on the content.
  2. 1x social media post focused on original blog post – this post will have the blogpost linked into it.
  3. 1x social media post (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram).

So I watched the doco, fully expecting it to be horrible, as most corporate videos tend to be.

Turns out, it was actually pretty good! (Who’d have thought a bank would tackle the issue of borrowing too much?)

So I wrote back to the PR firm, thanked them, and turned down their cashola.

Then I wrote about the doco and shared it with my audience anyway.

Now here’s the wedgie: the only reason a PR company would be willing to shell out nine thousand clams to me … is that I’ve built an audience who knows I wouldn’t take it.

Tread Your Own Path!