When a Dublin restaurant was asked if they do "influencer rates", there were as many people outraged by the idea as there were baffled that such a thing could exist. But according to James Kavanagh, they very much are a thing.

If you ask him, though, he can't believe people are as up-in-arms about it as they are. 

Over the weekend, La Peniche – a small restaurant located on a barge on the Grand Canal – posted that an influencer had contacted them inquiring about "influencer rates". The influencer, who has over 100,000 and is verified online, said they'd eaten at the spot before. 

Reaction to the restaurant's post was fierce, with some followers defending how much advertising can come from one influencer post, while others questioned how a restaurant could be expected to make cuts during these difficult times. 

"It is a thing", says presenter and influencer James Kavanagh this morning on the Jennifer Zamparelli Show. 

"I've been asked loads of times by restaurants to come in and eat in there and maybe share their restaurants to get some advertising. It's not this uncommon thing and I've seen a lot of discourse online absolutely perplexed that this goes on." 

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"Instagram or Twitter or YouTube, these are just other platforms. It's like newspapers, radio, TV – they're just other places where people are looking", he adds. "When people think of influencers and social media, they think of this weird, underground, debaucherous place but it's not."

With 138,000 followers on Instagram – thanks largely to his early videos of him scaring his boyfriend, William –Kavanagh is one of the most recognised young Irish face on the scene and is well used to the way influencers work.

Read more: Jessica Megan on why hating influencers stinks of sexism

"I never personally am the one to ask, I've never mailed a restaurant or a hotel and asked for a free stay", he says. "It's been offered to me loads. I can't really understand the outrage because it happens all of the time, and I think if you're asked and you're not into it, just say no!"

One detail of the discussion, however, is that many restaurants and small businesses are struggling at the moment due to Covid-19. La Peniche themselves said that in normal times they would have offered sorted something out for the influencer, but in the current circumstances, it's asking too much. 

Still, some are firmly in favour. Asador, a barbeque restaurant in Dublin, said that during lockdown they sent their at-home kits to influencers for free and it proved hugely successful. "It's just marketing", they wrote. "Worked for us."

"I totally get that we're in a really difficult time", Kavanagh says, "but I don't know if I'm into creating a big furor about it, it's just a simple 'no, we don't do this, thanks, bye.'"

He says that brands first started to approach him after he built up a following of 50,000 or 60,000 followers. On whether he ever feels pressure to post content online, he says "no, because I'm addicted! I just do it because I love to do it".

When it comes to advertising, it certainly seems like we all find new brands, restaurants, clothes and technology online, but Kavanagh says online platforms haven't overtaken television and radio. 

"Each platform is very different and has a different audience. You'll get people on TV that you won't get on Twitter, you'll get people on TikTok that you will not get on Instagram.

"When you look at certain brands, they have blended advertising campaigns. They'll have some radio ads, they'll have some TikTok ads. They won't go near YouTube, for example, because that's not where their audience is."

In recent years there has been a push back against influencers that only promote items, especially with social issues like climate change, racism, feminism and more requiring more discussion. Kavanagh says he's felt the "responsibility" to speak up more.  

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"I would feel responsible in terms of, say there's a vote coming up, a referendum or an election. I would feel a bit of responsibility and that I should encourage young people to go and register to vote or engage in politics, or if there's a march happening.

"In terms of me sharing my opinions on things, I don't know. I just feel a moral responsibility to encourage people to do good things."

And if over the last few months you've grown tired of the same people on Instagram, TikTok or Twitter trying everything to impress others, you can always edit them out, Kavanagh says.  

"I'm all about the unfollow, create the feed that makes you happy! I follow mainly comedians and people like Goldie Hawn, who's iconic, on Instagram. Some people follow a lot of very wealthy people or people who get a lot of gifted things and it makes them feel empty at the end of it. Why follow?"