by Elizabeth Diamond
In the last ten years alone, the term “influencer” has been completely flipped on its head. It went from a coined internet-slang term to a full-blown career that, nowadays, kids everywhere aspire to become.
Studies show that when asked the age-old “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question, over half of Gen Z and Millennial responders are set on the social media track. This is because, well, it’s a great gig. The more followers you have, the better the sponsorships and brand deals are, and the more you get paid. The more your popularity accumulates, the more of a celebrity you become.
So, it makes sense why most brands have hopped on the influencer bandwagon. Big brands take social media creators they know will appeal directly to their target audiences, and use them to market their products. Influencers are compensated for anything from Instagram posts, to story mentions and even TikTok videos. The compensation for these posts is nothing short of a pretty penny, either—for a single post to one million followers, some influencers can make more than $250,000.
This number has only gone up in recent years due to the simple fact that influencers are the most in-demand marketing strategy, especially for young consumers. It seems like a perfect, mutually beneficial relationship, right? The brands need market appeal and the influencers make a career out of it. But, what happens when the influencers slip up? Or say something controversial? Or perhaps get caught in a scandal?
Social media has seen a huge uptake in influencers getting “canceled” for any number of things in recent months. As social media activism has taken off so much in the last year, consumers are much more likely to hold brands and influencers equally accountable for their mistakes. Most notably, YouTube celebrities James Charles and David Dobrik have received unprecedented backlash for their actions, causing Twitter responders to call out the brands that refused to cut ties with the influencers.
This all begs the question, how smart is influencer marketing in the grand scheme? Sure, it’s a great way to build brand loyalty in a short amount of time, but influencers themselves are, at the end of the day, just people. People who have the capability to make terrible choices, and people who can be greatly flawed in their personal lives.
It’s a huge act of trust to make an influencer the face of your brand, and when that trust is broken it can have unending ramifications for the way your organization is viewed by the public. As with James Charles, thousands upon thousands of consumers have condemned Morphe for being associated with someone we now know to be a predator, and that is business they might never be able to recover.
So yes, as of now the job title “influencer” is still beyond appealing to younger generations. We are surrounded by them on every social platform, making it hard to forget just how luxe their lifestyles can be. But, with the ongoing scandals and public backlash, we very well may see brands take their marketing in a “safer” direction in the years to come.