November 29, 2022

Influencers: The Instability of Social Media Marketing

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.

Responses to Morphe staying with James Charles following the scandal

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.

4 thoughts on “Influencers: The Instability of Social Media Marketing

  1. It’s so crazy to see the transition of advertising and marketing in the past few years. It’s really mostly based on individuals with a large platform and less of real campaigns. Loved the pice about cancel culture as well. Great post.

  2. I think any business who partners with a person in the spotlight is at risk of being cancelled due to association. I think the more famous an individual is, the more controversial they probably are. I think it is extremely important for brands to throughly research the background of a celebrity or influencer they may partner with, to see if they may cause controversy, or have a crisis response strategy in place if it goes wrong. It really is a balance between risk vs. reward.

  3. This is such a great timely article! So many celebrities are getting canceled now. I think it’s super important for fans to hold “influencers” accountable for their actions especially if they get paid based on follower count and sponsorships. Brands need to do a better job at picking an individual who will represent the company values well rather than just focusing on someone who has a lot of followers.

  4. This was a very interesting read! I understand your point that it is a little risky to trust an influencer as the face of your brand as they could potentially do something negative that then would reflect the brand. However, you can also use influencers as just a one time post. They don’t have to be consistently posting and being a full representative of the brand. I think it is an advantage of having an influencer post about your product so that you gain followers and exposure.

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