Influencers. They are the homecoming queens—and kings—of social media, strutting around like they own the place in an effort to convince you that you can’t live without a certain eyeliner or a certain energy drink or even a certain book. I can’t remember when being an influencer became an actual job title, but I can tell you that I miss the good old days, when marketing didn’t rely on girls on juice fasts with perfectly sculpted eyebrows and a vocal fry to rival a Kardashian to move products.
To be fair, those people are mostly beauty influencers who all look like the girls who were mean to me in high school, so I may shoulder an unearned grudge.
But this is our brave new world, and these are our leaders.
IZEA is a firm that specializes in matching influencers with brands, and also selling software that helps companies find these people in the first place. They are purveyors of sponsored content and the geniuses behind getting Hillary Duff—who named her kid BANKS, for chrissakes, so at least she’s transparent about why she’s really in this business for, bless her—to hawk something called Sparkling Ice, which I can only assume is a brand of ice with glitter inside it. FIVE STARS, WOULD BUY.
That said, I can’t think of ONE celebrity I care about/like enough that they could persuade me to buy something I wasn’t already going to buy. (No, not even the great and all-powerful Tori Amos, but she also has never stooped so low as to endorse anything that wasn’t a Bosendorfer piano, and that wasn’t on Instagram, so.) I guess what offends me the most about using influencers to sell things is how full of shit the whole process is. I mean don’t get me wrong, marketing in general is a very full-of-shit profession. You’re essentially trying to entice people into parting with their hard-earned dollars to buy the illusion of happiness via the accumulation of things. For me, though, that process filtered through the lens of an influencer seems even more inauthentic than it would be otherwise, because you know the person hawking it to you has probably never even USED the product. But clearly, a lot of people don’t give a shit about that, so maybe this is just me yelling at yet another cloud.
But…it’s just so fake.
Which, you know, it’s Instagram, a platform whose every post should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s notorious for photos of what journalist Rachel Turner so brilliantly termed “curated imperfection” in this excellent article about one of the masters of that particular art (and which we discussed in episode 10).
Rachel Hollis isn’t an influencer in the sense that she’s shilling for certain brands, but she is most certainly shilling for herself—and her $1800 “couples’ retreats” (NO REFUNDS) and her book and her journal. She’s built a veritable media empire on motivational quotes and perfectly tousled hair, so I’ll give her some credit for that. But there also more than a few photos of her holding a latte (venti, nonfat, half-caf, no foam—I’m guessing, but you know I’m right) and wearing diamond tennis bracelets and a rock that would put a Real Housewife to shame.
So her followers, of which she’s got nearly a million at this point, are buying her LIFESTYLE and by extension, her self-help book and her self-help journal. And probably a ticket to her self-help conference that I’m sure includes a lot of jumping up and down and yelling about believing in yourself at 8:00AM (ugh). Even though she’s not trying to sell people makeup or diet drinks or some other shit they don’t really need, she’s using social media to sell herself and HER shit, and that’s a real feat that makes me real queasy.
Here’s a video about a woman who gave up going to law school to become an influencer, which is, you know, a choice. I’d give up going to law school to be a clown or someone who holds signs on the street corner, or literally anything else, so I get it. As far as I can tell, she mostly takes photos of mountains and streams and trees and every once in awhile, throws in some granola bar shoutouts, so you don’t feel like you’re being promoted to relentlessly, which is nice. So here’s an influencer I can KIND OF get behind, both because I’m a sucker for good nature photography and because this woman doesn’t look like a girl who would’ve been mean to me in high school.
Influencers will probably always annoy the shit out of me but some of that is probably because I’m jealous that I didn’t think of monetizing social media as well as they do first, and I am woman enough to admit that.