06/06/2016
Bye Felicia.

Words by

Brandon James Cook

The other night I was scrolling my Facebook feed for what felt like hours (because I do nothing with my life), when a link caught my eye. It was an interview on Digiday with an anonymous social media executive, detailing the alleged breakdown of marketing relationships between brands and social media influencers. 

The interviewee harped on about the perils of utilising social media celebs and Instagram stars for branded content and marketing. About how the pool of talent is becoming far too large, meanwhile their pay rates are skyrocketing. About the “decrease in quality” of content being created. “They no longer value their art,” the anon exec sighed. 

It’s finally happening, I thought. The Influencers are dying out.

For years, you couldn’t escape them. Log onto Instagram and there they were, batting their supple lashes and flexing their impossibly toned abs. Have a squiz at any youth pop-culture website, and you’ll see interview after interview with some mega-hot Insta-babe, all thanks to her six-to-seven-digit follower count. 

Instead of frothing over models in bikini advertorials, you could watch the same bombshell plug the same tired skincare label on repeat through her Insta feed. And instead of a few fashion divas plugging sponsored content, there were suddenly hundreds, with fans foaming at the mouth (probably also crying). 

Audiences defined their cool people, and brands responded by putting them on a commercial pedestal, hoping those audiences wouldn’t notice the marketing ploy at play. Sunkissed beach babes. Instagram hunks. Digitally-savvy content creators with massive followings, and companies fighting tooth-and-nail to have them as their spokespeople. These were our Influencers.

It was fun for a good long while but at last, we’re starting to see the glitter fade. And why shouldn’t we? They’ve had their time. 

People are losing interest in influencer marketing – largely because, as it turns out, people don’t like being sold. We went from curiously Googling that brand your fave fashion babe plugged, to scoffing at the blatant sponsored post. That, and if Digiday’s interview and certain fashion-fiascos are anything to go by, all those influencers were starting to get a big head. 

No, not you, Essena. We get it; you don’t live here anymore.

They’re the brand-savvy equivalent of a Pinterest board. The ‘influencer’ label is becoming a cult of no-personality.

Before you think I’m being a bitter old queen, it turns out the research might back me up. A recent survey by Markerly indicated that micro-influencers – those with lesser followings – have relatively higher engagement rates and reach, than influencers with huge followings. 

This confirms what I’ve known all along about the superhot dudes with the six-digit followings I pretend not to lust after: Nobody actually cares. 

Loser. 

(Brb, sobbing @ my reflection.)  

That and we’ve seen the presence of “influential” fashion bloggers become less and less mandatory at events like Fashion Week in the past few years. There are some bloggers I follow through their wanders around these festive annual events – but many are getting the skeptical side-eye more and more.

Of course, with every dwindling industry, there are reasons to be concerned for its loss. 

Frankly, the world needs more content creators. Some influencers give an independent angle to an industry that the traditional advertisers and journos can’t provide with their media obligations and code of ethics. 

That, and for every sell-out hottie being given the boot, there’s a serious creative losing out to the cultural shift. Some of these “influencers” are beyond passionate artists, who are finally getting the credit and social media #impressions they deserve.

So how do Influencers suffer the pain of yet another cultural change in the winds? And what advice can I, a simple media fanatic, give to their future endeavours?

Reveal your dynamic personality. Audiences don’t want unthinking brand-spokespeople as alternative media icons. You can get far enough on Instagram with a ripped physique, but people are clueing in to the Cult of No-Personality.

Sure, young people are always going to be drawn to pretty things. But we dig discourse now and we’re interested in intelligent thinkers. We’re Clementine Ford over Baywatch babes, and Waleed Aly over insert-shirtless-hunk with a brand sponsorship. 

The Influencer might finally be dying, but it’s not all bad. Let’s see if the next generation of content creators can’t put our money where their mouth is.

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