The Good and the Bad of the Influencer Economy
Mon, April 19, 2021

The Good and the Bad of the Influencer Economy

Influencers have an unstructured way of marketing themselves compared to big brands, which appeals to the masses as their selling point. / Photo credits by rawpixel via 123rf

 

 

Influencers are pinker, younger, and here to stay. If it’s not already apparent in their egregious crowds and devoted followers, it’s obvious in the way businesses treat them now: a new avenue for marketing. At the end of the day, that’s essentially what being an influencer is about, isn’t it? Trying to make your mark out there, marketing yourself, and exposing parts of you so people could relate to you when they watch you. 

The only difference between these influencers versus the big brands is that influencers have a more loose, unstructured way of marketing themselves; their selling point is typically rooted in social problems and struggles faced by teens today and how they, like every one of us, are affected by them, too. 

Businesses may seem to have the same concept, but their mass reach and goal to always appeal to many make their selling point less “nuanced,” something that more intimate vlogs or even make-up tutorial videos are able to give. 

However, eventually, these two might just continue to mix as time goes on and businesses realize there’s a benefit to leaning into the niche. 

The Up: Democratized Fame

 

Fake followers and fake likes are some of the common problems permeating in the social media industry. / Photo credits by rawpixel via 123rf

 

How better can we describe influencer culture but with a sea metaphor—a constantly moving reservoir of ideas, content, content creators, and many other things? Every day, the interest shifts and influencers are the waves that hit the shores frantically chasing after ideas and ways to keep dragging audiences in. 

It’s an arduous process that’s almost endless and mind-numbing in its fast-pacedness, but it’s a model so many of the current generation find is perfect for what they want to do. 

There’s a lot of world economy and market behaviors overlap that can be discussed here, but the focus is first and foremost the democratization of fame. In this day and age, everyone has a chance at the big kids' table. Get enough social media attention and set up some sort of channel to connect with fans, and grow fanbases from there. 

One example Quartz, a website offering news in different areas such as finance, politics, tech, and lifestyle, is able to give is Michael Jordan’s painstaking negotiation of an Adidas deal versus probably anyone in the last five or six years doing much the same thing. 

Back then, says Quartz, while Jordan was the basketball legend he was, Adidas hadn’t been interested in him as an endorser. Converse wanted to sign him, but they reportedly only said so on the condition that they would only make them average “cookie cutter” shoes. 

 

 

In the last decade, the tides have shifted and businesses were beginning to understand again that a few conglomerates no longer had all the power now: it’s back in the hands of the consumers. 

Influencers of today are given a fairly large amount of leeway to what they want to release because they’ve already built a fanbase that trusts them, which is ultimately the goal of effective influencer marketing, says social media news website Social Media Today. From there, all brands have to do is understand where they stand with their audience, and part of this dance is knowing what content to release to the target audience.

The advantage to this is that influencers always have some sort of persona; so long as your brand matches with theirs and the persona they have created and cultivated, figuring out how to market the products becomes slightly easier. 

The secret ingredient to it all is the challenging feat of coming across as real and relatable to your audience. Consumers now have a chance to follow their definition of what makes someone relatable and someone they can support, giving way to devoted although fairly small communities committing themselves to their “faves,” an internet slang term often used to describe someone’s favorite online personality. 

The Down: When Authenticity is Not So Authentic

In the same way YouTubers get floored when they get enough social media attention than they expect, some also tend to get high on these things. Caroline Calloway, a 27-year-old who found her niche by posting diary-like captions on her Instagram, recently told the world she’d bought followers before she was as big as she was now -- another problem permeating the industry, according to business magazine Forbes. 

The most common problems here are fake followers and fake likes. Algorithms and scripts are available for free online if you want to generate followers, but it’s another thing entirely to pay people off the internet to like your stuff. And if you’re trying to land some sort of deal with a brand, this stuff will not sit well with them. 

 

 

This is a consequence of the pressures of social media popularity. Says writer Jim Tobin of Forbes, this problem is inevitable and even inherent of this culture. Yet another influencer marketing problem that’s almost comically un-ironic is the fact that people just don’t like advertisements in the first place. Translation? “As the saturation rate climbs, the influencer’s engagement rate plunges.” 

Tobin writes: 

“People follow influencers for inspiration, discovery and keeping up with trends. If all of their content is paid for by someone else, their influence disappears more quickly than their reach.”