The Rise of The Influencer: How Social Media Became a Marketplace
Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Research by InfluencerDB estimated that the market size for influencer reach this year is between a minimum of $4.85 billion and a maximum of $16.6 billion.
When Twitter first began as a micro-blogging service in 2008, few could have predicted the bizarre alternate-reality that would spawn in its wake. Today, Twitter and other social media platforms are more than just an accessory to real life, in many ways they have supplanted reality: allowing users to fully migrate their lives online.
This has led to a generation of personalities who only exist in the digital sphere, the so-called ‘Internet Famous’ include the likes of Logan and Jake Paul, The Sidemen and David Dobrick. These people exist and compete in a hierarchical structure, with those with the most followers accruing obscene amount of money on the basis of those clicks, likes and subscribes.
However, the most disappointing part of this revolution is how thoroughly unentertaining it is. That we seem to collectively believe that turning a camera round and narrating your inner monologue is worthy of such enormous financial reward is a bizarre one – and once this mind-set has been attained, it’s very difficult to turn the clock back and gain a sense of perspective.
These social media ‘Influencers’ (now classed as an actual job, to my dismay) use their following as a construct to continually promote themselves in a self-perpetuating loop - the manipulation is almost tangible. Take any newly minted YouTuber and before long you’ll see the following: an influx of sponsored posts - usually revolving around useless teeth whitening products, mentally and physically damaging appetite suppressors and completely inadequate and unethical clothing items- begin to pop up all over their profiles like some infectious bacteria multiplying uncontrollably.
In fact, research by InfluencerDB, using the earned media value of sponsored posts as a measure, estimated that the market size for influencer marketing this year would be anywhere between a minimum of $4.85 billion and a maximum of $16.6 billion. This minimum predication is larger than the median gross domestic product of an African country, which is completely absurd.
Not only do these sponsored posts subtly brainwash an influencer’s following into assuming these items are necessities, but they also inhabit some sort of cult-like nature where if the follower does not buy these products then they are not ‘part of the gang’, so to speak.
Due to this, follows, subscriptions, views, likes, upvotes, favourites, and all the other nonsensical jargon terms, are heavily relied upon nowadays. Many top influencers revel in this. But, as Phaedrus said, ‘things are not always what they seem’. Unbelievably so, there are various websites in which you can purchase vast amounts of all these things. So in reality, a large portion of influencers are only influencing unoccupied social media accounts. The sheer ludicrousness is laughable.
Not only does creating these new jobs- which fulfill no real role in society- mean that genuinely beneficial work is completely overlooked, leaving sections of the economy riddled with unemployment, but it also creates a false dream for future generations who may believe they too can do little-to-no hard work in return for a whopping lump sum every month, further deterring possible leaders of their trade away from learning and building these useful skills. In the end, I worry we are going to be left with some sort of dystopia, populated by self-entitled, aimless idlers. This isn't the future we want to create, so its time we collectively consigned these vapid influencers to the dustbin of history.