What happens when an Instagram influencer shifts their personal branding?

By Ramsey Sullivan

With the rise of social platforms, we’ve also seen the rise of social media influencers. These people have a significant following on platforms, typically Instagram and YouTube, that allow them opportunities to collaborate with brands. These brands will send products for influencers to review, pay them to post about the product or develop a brand partnership. The goal in this strategy is that through this process they will gain new consumers through the influencer’s followers. 

The niche communities on social media thrive on their influencers. Instagram has 800 million monthly active users, making it an excellent platform for brands to target new consumers. I have a few influencers in different industries that I trust to be honest with me about products. Some of them have developed their own brands out of their following. But something I didn’t think about until I had to sit down and write this post is how many influencers I’ve stopped following because their personal branding and what they posted about. They no longer were posting about the things that I originally followed them for. 

Then I started wondering, what would happen to their brand partnerships if an influencer no longer aligned with the brands values? Is there a section in a contract that discusses that or is it something brands tackle as they go?

Take Jera Bean for example. She’s a former SoulCycle instructor based in New York City who developed a huge following on Instagram through her inspirational fitness related posts. She even became an Adidas ambassador and was featured on the main page of their website. I had been following her because I thought she was realistic about the fitness industry and even talked about the unhealthy aspects of being an instructor for a famous fitness studio. It was cool to see someone I had followed for a while “make it big” in the fitness industry by becoming an Adidas ambassador.

Jera Bean’s Instagram profile boasts over 150k followers.

However, about a year ago, her personal branding shifted. She became more about fashion and started her own social media online bootcamp for people looking to boost their own social feeds. Her feed now rarely features a fitness related post (at the time of writing this, it had almost been a month since she last posted something fitness related). There’s no real problem with an influencer changing their personal branding but I feel like there is potential to lose followers and lowering your engagement by doing this. 

For me personally, she was no longer giving me meaningful things to follow. I wanted to hear about the new workout challenge she was doing and which leggings were squat proof. I have no need to pursue a social media influencer career and her Instagram posts were getting increasingly longer and harder to follow. It made me sad in a weird way, like I had lost touch with a friend.

Looking through her feed now, it seems like she has developed new partnerships with companies in the beauty industry. This has probably opened up opportunities for her and she is probably very successful in her efforts. But I wonder how many of her followers felt the same way I did when she changed her branding. It’d be interesting to see the data on her followers and engagement since her branding changed.

Are there any influencers you think have changed their branding? Or are there any influencers you’ve followed for awhile that have continued to be in the same industry?

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This Article Has 12 Comments
  1. Molly Kavanaugh says:

    Hi Ramsey! This is a great topic and something that is seen with so many influencers that I follow lately. I think that you make a really good point that Influencers seem to be partnering with companies that are changing their brand and while it is a huge success for the influencers themselves, they are also losing the following that made them an influencer in the first place. Personally, I think that Influencers should make a shift into a different industry slowly and first begin by doing a mix of different posts to see how their followers might feel about a personal brand change rather than blindsiding their followers with a complete change, which could make them lose or shift their following entirely.

  2. Molly Kavanaugh says:

    Hi Ramsey! This is a great topic and something that is seen with so many influencers that I follow lately. I think that you make a really good point that Influencers seem to be partnering with companies that are changing their brand and while it is a huge success for the influencers themselves, they are also losing the following that made them an influencer in the first place. Personally, I think that Influencers should make a shift into a different industry slowly and first begin by doing a mix of different posts to see how their followers might feel about a personal brand change rather than blindsiding their followers with a complete change, which could make them lose or shift their following entirely.

  3. Cassidy Stevens says:

    Thanks Ramsey! I actually used to follow Jera for the same reason and ended up unfollowing her as well. She used to be so genuine about body image and the fitness world and her platform has changed dramatically. I feel like every single one of her posts are a sponsored post or an ad and they range from protein bars to face wash to jeans. I’ve also found her posts to become a little over edited as compared to what she used to post. In contrast, some influencers I’ve followed that have stayed pretty true to who they are include @shutthekaleup @olive.eeeats and @rachaelgoodeats.

  4. Miranda Menard says:

    I have often wondered the same thing about influencers changing their brand and have noticed that it is usually to make more money for themselves. I understand that being an influencer is part of or their full job, so making strategic moves to boost their career is essential. But when they make such dramatic shifts, they are loosing a following of loyal followers/fans which can take away credibility. From a business growth and brand loyalty perspective, I think that shifts and changes in brand need to be slow and done carefully in order to keep their fan base while also growing.

  5. Hayley Williamson says:

    Hi! I have noticed this change as well in the influencers I follow, especially on YouTube. When I first started following many of the influencers I still follow today, their content was mainly about beauty, but in recent years, many of them have shifted to becoming lifestyle influencers. I wonder if this change is something they want to pursue? Or if they feel pressure to do so because everyone else is changing their “brand” to lifestyle content.

  6. Yujun Mei says:

    As far as I am concerned, shifting personal branding might lose some audiences, but it also attract other audiences. The blogger needs to recognize that he or she could not comply with any audiences. Even the most splendid content merely makes some audiences feel happy. Because audiences always have different aesthetics. This is the fact. So I think shifting personal branding is a good thing, don’t worry for losing audiences. Because blogger’s audiences are always changing.

  7. Sara Espinosa says:

    I definitely agree with you Ramsey! I don’t really follow influencers on Instagram but I see that trend happening on Twitter too. Once genuine posts with interesting remarks are now flooded with “discount codes” and “#ad” that later end up defining the account. It’s sad to see disappear the content that made you follow the account in the first place. Although I understand that this is a way for influencers to make money and fame, they really should look back to the start of their career and acknowledge what led them there in the beginning.

  8. Katie Corah says:

    I agree with everything you just said. It seems that once an “influencer” or someone who brands themselve partenrs with an external brand, their entire feed changes. When Kendall Jenner or Ariana Grande partner with brands, they are no longer posting what they want but what they are paid to post. Once brands take note of a popular creator, they jump on the opportunity to promote their organization in any way they can.

  9. Molly Garcia says:

    It is interesting to watch what happens when influencers change their personal brand. Personally, I have a friend who gain a lot of followers on Instagram by modeling trendy bathing suits/bikinis. Slowly, she began to take her health more seriously, and eventually switched to posting fitness-related content rather than bikini pictures. From this transition, she lost a few thousand followers, but also gained a lot more sponsors with fitness brands (like workout clothing brands and protein powder/supplement brands). It is always weird and a little sad to watch your favorite influencers change, but they are still people and their passions and personalities change, just us non-influencers.

  10. Olivia Gabriel says:

    Nice post Ramsey! This is something I had never thought of but have definitely seen also. I have a variety of influencers that I follow, specifically on Instagram. This post made me think of a fashion and lifestyle blogger I used to follow. I had followed her for almost two years and bought many products per her recommendation. This past year she had a baby. Obviously very exciting for her, but suddenly her content switched to more baby products and more motherhood posts. This content was no longer of use to me, so I unfollowed her. This may have been true for some of her other followers as well, but it also makes me think about all of the followers she gained. I’m sure many of her original followers stuck around, but with her switch in her personal brand, she also opens herself to an entire new audience- mothers. Shifting personal branding can have consequences, but ultimately it can also have benefits. I think it depends on who their audience is and the content they are creating/releasing.

  11. Amelia Whitford says:

    Hi Ramsey! I thought this was a great topic to choose because of how much I have seen this happen from the influencers I follow on Instagram. Unfortunately, it is so common nowadays to see influencers promote brands that do not align with their core values. It is sad to see the influencers you follow start to shift their personal branding into something completely different to what they originally were branding, purely to gain more popularity. Once I saw this happening to the influencers I had followed, I unfollowed them. Shifting personal branding can have benefits, but it can also lead to negative consequences.

  12. Evan Spisla says:

    Personally, I love when someone’s personal brand doesn’t shift entirely, but rather grows to show other dimensions of themselves. It takes away from the robot-vibe many influencers give off. For example, many sneaker-collecting accounts that I follow have grown to incorporate hip hop, fashion, and other related themes that reflect the creators interests. I think the importance is that if they’re a bigger account thats generated a large audience, they don’t lose sight of what brought them their original fans.

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