Many perceive the 21st century as the age of the influencer. And they wouldn’t be wrong; over the last decade, YouTube hauls (who else was subscribed to Zoella?) have evolved into Instagram brand deals, which have been made all the more lucrative through reality shows such as Love Island. Most recently, influencers have taken to TikTok to showcase their lavish lifestyles, in partnership with different brands.
However, carefully curated IG feeds are so yesterday. Authenticity is in, and airbrushed is out. Younger generations, in particular, are showing a preference for authentic content – and are even calling out the inauthenticity of influencers and their #ad posts. Enter: the age of the de-influencer.
What is an Influencer?
The term ‘influencer’ is self-explanatory: it refers to anyone with the ability to wield influence in the online sphere. Influencers are predominantly present on social media, where they leverage their sizable followings to attract brands within their niche industry. Most influencers create content around a specific niche: from food to fitness, and from fashion to travel. Many argue that influencers are the modern celebrity; back in the day, brands would exclusively partner with existing celebrities, whereas influencers achieve ‘celebrity’ status – and, thus, brand deals galore – through their gravitas on social media.
Influencer marketing is where brands partner with influencers to promote their product or service, in exchange for remuneration or ‘gifted’ products. This allows companies to benefit from the exposure accompanying whomever is the hottest right now on social media. However, if influencers are paid to promote a brand, they are now legally required to disclose this on social media – hence the #ad littering so many captions. But why?
This law was enforced in 2018 due to widespread complaints about the inauthenticity of platforms such as Instagram. Users were continuously met with floods of sponsored content – without any hint as to whether it was sponsored or not. Whilst influencers tend to partner with like-minded brands, there is certainly a difference between a genuine recommendation, and one which was paid for. No one likes to be swindled!
The Roots of De-influencing
In the same vein, the de-influencer trend has stemmed from discontent among users about the current social media landscape. Whilst TikTok has been giving Instagram a run for its money as the second-biggest influencer platform, it has since turned on its head – simultaneously providing a home for the ever-growing de-influencer phenomenon. But what is de-influencing, and how could it change online life as we know it?
With 100 million views and counting on TikTok, the de-influencer trend is the latest hot topic. De-influencing aims to cut down excessive influencer-fuelled consumption, in the pursuit of more sustainable spending habits and improved user mental health. 44% of Gen Z have bought a product or service due to an influencer recommendation, and de-influencing aims to help young users, in particular, “think before they buy”.
Influencers have historically represented an unattainable, luxury lifestyle. This has caused many young users to try to replicate this by buying similar products – from beauty and skincare to the latest fashion brands. However, in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, more than ever, we need to “spend smart”. What’s more, environmental activists are waging war against consumer culture. It is widely known that it is far more sustainable to use up, reuse and repurpose previous purchases, rather than continuously buying new-and-improved replacements. However, many feel pressured to keep up with the coveted influencer lifestyle: a mindset which ‘de-influencers’ are trying to deconstruct.
Influencing: 2023 and Beyond
As a result of the de-influencer trend, many are weighing in with their own predictions. Will influencer marketing die a death? Or will our values on social media simply shift? As digital marketing experts, we can assure you that influencers are here to stay – yet what ‘influencing’ looks like is set to change over time, in tandem with the ever-fluctuating social media trends.
Influencer marketing and celebrity culture have been ingrained within us since the inception of social media itself. However, we cannot underestimate the power of public opinion. In the same way that influencers are now legally required to disclose the nature of their #ad, de-influencing will likely cause more shake-ups, from influencer etiquette to user behaviour. For example, many online users are already aiming to ‘de-influence their life’: shopping second-hand, repurposing products and avoiding on-a-whim purchases. Will this diminish influencer value? Only time will tell.
Regardless of what may or may not happen in the future, there has undoubtedly been a shift in perception. People favour authenticity online, and are more acutely aware of global issues – such as overconsumption – than ever. However, the internet has seemingly already found its answer: eco-friendly influencers!
One other thing’s for certain: our team at Social Chameleon will have our eyes peeled for further developments in the de-influencer debate. Stay tuned!