Rise & not-yet-fall of social media influencers

May 12, 2017

After Selena Gomez, the proud possessor of the most Instagram followers badge (she had 120 million as of Wednesday), signed on to represent Coach — after having been an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, a brand with a very different aesthetic, one nonfan tweeted: “Selena Gomez, the previous face of Coca Cola, Louis Vuitton, Verizon, and the current face of Pantene and Coach … a joke to the industry???”

It’s the same thing that the Fyre Festival, the famously failed music festival in the Bahamas, was paying for when it paid Ms. Jenner, along with Bella Hadid (12.7 million Instagram followers), Hailey Baldwin (10 million) and Emily Ratajkowski (12.8 million), to drum up excitement via promotional posts with said women cavorting in bikinis on a beach. It’s what, to a certain extent, Pepsi was paying for when it hired Ms. Jenner (sense a theme here?) and put her in an ill-conceived ad in which she uses a soda to soften up a police officer at a riot. It’s what Vogue Arabia was paying for when it put an only-semi-veiled Gigi Hadid on the cover of its first issue.

Either way, it’s real. As with all slippery slopes, it’s easy to hop on but also easy to end up in a heap at the bottom. Which raises the possibility that we are on the verge of a new (hopefully more considered) age in the evolution of Influencer culture.

Since being what used to be called a “tastemaker” became a job, and word-of-mouth tips became known as “influencer marketing,” attention has been focused largely on the risks to brands in linking up with individuals. See, for example, the lesson of PewDiePie, a YouTube star who had signed deals with Disney and Google and then was discovered to have made anti-Semitic statements. (The corporate brands cut all ties, not surprisingly.)


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