Has the era of “influencers” come to an end?

Has the era of "influencers" come to an end?

Instagram is experimenting with removing likes, and the use of #ads hashtags is declining—what’s next for the “influencer” group?

Has the era of "influencers" come to an end?
Has the era of “influencers” come to an end?

Has the “age” of those with influence peaked yet? While once more suitable than traditional celebrities, influencers are now ubiquitous, with the term even making its way into the dictionary last year.

Beauty YouTuber James Charles garnered attention when he referred to his invitation to the Met Gala as “a positive step forward in representing influencers.” They are everywhere, from Coachella to Chernobyl, from Instagram to advertising companies. Despite seemingly high engagement levels, many believe the “bubble” will eventually burst, and we may be getting tired of being influenced.

A recent report by Hypebeast suggests that influencers are increasingly… less influential, with one revealing selling only 36 shirts to over two million followers, and others being exposed daily for deceiving their viewers. The public is fatigued by what influencers once epitomized, such as millennial pink, inspirational quotes, tearful apology videos, and extravagance.

On the other hand, the intellectually inclined seem intrigued by the end of influencer culture, partly because to them, it seems like many become famous for “doing nothing.”

So what exactly is an “influencer”? Generally, it refers to anyone who uses their online image and brand to sell something to their audience: whether it’s vitamins, clothing, or simply a lifestyle. Many of them will have skills or platforms they use to carry out their work, such as Instagram posts, vlogging, or blogging. The term is still broad, encompassing everyone from Kendall Jenner, the world’s highest-paid model, to Instagram users with millions of followers.

Until now, influencers’ activities have resembled traditional advertising, with their job being to sell a lifestyle to everyone. But the difference between influencers and models or actors is that they seem more “ordinary.” Influencers stem from the “DIY bedroom” culture, with the technology we all have, allowing them to reach millions. Some may feel uncomfortable with the individualism and capitalism influencers represent—this is also the contradiction between respecting and admiring their position while realizing they are human too.

The idea that “anyone can do it” attracts people to influencers, but it also provokes resentment. No one likes the reality that anyone can be plucked from the crowd and quickly become famous.

Tora Northman, a journalist working for Highsnobiety, started posting outfits and quickly saw her following rise to 41 thousand. She believes there has been a significant change: “I used to follow countless bloggers and personalities, and many of them have become ‘dull’ because there are too many new, younger people joining the industry.” She asserts that becoming an influencer has become easier as brands tap into what’s called “micro-influencers” (with around 2,000 to 50,000 followers) when the big names are out of reach. She says, “All you need is a phone and an Instagram account.”

Amy Valentine, a content creator since 2011 with nearly 140 thousand followers, has witnessed some significant moments in the industry and at just 24, she admits these changes make her feel like a “dinosaur.” She doesn’t believe becoming an influencer is as easy as it seems: “Just because you have ideas doesn’t mean you have strategies to turn them into markets. It’s also a cutthroat industry in terms of its impact on your mental health.” Indeed, Instagram has been rated the worst app for mental health. “Becoming an influencer is about content creation as well as knowing how to deal with brands, adjusting content to fit them and their goals, as well as understanding business. The market needs to be defined and targeted, you can’t just post pictures and expect followers to react as desired.”

“Perhaps we’re tired of influencer culture because we don’t want to see ambitious content anymore.”

We don’t want to be told how to live, what to wear, which festivals to attend, what tea to drink, not wanting to always be busy, rushed, always creating content. Are we entering a culture of ultimate laziness? Quartz writes that it’s time for the “lazy to rise again,” and the media praises the benefits of “laziness.”

On Instagram and YouTube, influencers are facing criticism for the products they’re willing to sell. The public is beginning to demand responsibility: for influencers to think about the “influence” they have and not promote products harmful to young people. When they started, influencers weren’t shielded by PR teams like celebrities, making them vulnerable to criticism and unprecedented crises.

Many influencers are even leaving the industry. Tara Costello, a blogger who quit for various reasons, shares that she doesn’t like how the “growing industry” or what it brings to her. “My experiences overall have been more negative than positive. Additionally, you easily compare yourself to those with larger platforms and feel bad about it.” She says the “lack of transparency” implicit in the industry also contributes to her decision.

According to Eric Dahan (CEO and co-founder of Open Influence), promoting responsibility and transparency means influencers now have to be “more professional.” He says, “Certain standards and criteria have been applied.” This change not only affects how we perceive influencers but also how they carry out their work. Previous partnerships were straightforward: influencers would post an outfit on Instagram, tag the brand, and hope their followers would buy them. However, that has changed: adhering to new rules, influencers now have to label their posts as “AD” or “GIFT.” That transparency makes advertising activities more responsible but also undermines its effectiveness. Tora shares that she actually screens sponsored posts because she’s afraid “things won’t seem trustworthy if it’s constantly tagged as ‘ad’ or ‘gift.'”

Flo Guan, who never aimed to be an influencer but now has over 120 thousand followers through posting outfits, is now a model for brands like Cyberdog and Motel Rocks. She believes she understands why these rules are in place: “It’s better for consumers if they know which products are advertised and which they’re given for free.” Influencers need to be responsible to their audience/fans: “Some products or services are not good for you, like products or services that make young girls change their body image.”

However, these new rules also create quite a bit of trouble, a “tight” situation for the influencer community. Amy says that although she’s always transparent, the new regulations are very “strict” and confusing because now she has to say “AD” even if she unintentionally wears gifted shoes. There’s a lot of discrimination surrounding advertising, and Amy loses followers just because of paid content, even though that’s the only way influencers actually make money from their work. She says, “Personally, I would never work with a brand I wouldn’t want to buy from myself, and therefore, I’ve lost some deals, but I keep my integrity.”

These changes may make some people think the influencer group is “going extinct,” but the reality is that this industry and its “employees” are simply “evolving,” and smart influencers must learn to adapt. If Instagram removes likes, it will significantly impact how influencers track their interactions and demonstrate their value to potential clients or even their current follower count. Amy says the algorithm shift has reduced her new follows to 13-15%, making her feel like her hard work is “wasted

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