A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

May 14, 2016

Why the Influencer Economy Is Collapsing Under the Weight Of Its Inherent Absurdity

And that means all you 'brand ambassadors' had better not get too comfortable, either. JL

Andy Cush reports in Gawker:

If we have to ask what they do, and they say “influencer,” we don’t hire them. We used to pay $800 for 30 or 40 edited images back in 2014. Now, those types charge $300,000 to $500,000, and brands don’t actually own the rights. The brand that wishes to authentically connect with a customer realizes that throwing hundreds of dollars at some dick with a man bun and a few thousand Instagram followers may not be the best way to do it.
There comes a time in the life of every person or youth-oriented organic energy beverage brand when one must reckon with the loss of some previously cherished idea. A young woman realizes that she is no longer in love, or that her religion is now meaningless to her; the organic energy beverage brand that wishes to authentically connect with her as a customer realizes that throwing hundreds of dollars at some dick with a man bun and a few thousand Instagram followers may not be the best way to do it. Friends and beverage brands, that day of reckoning is today. We must throw off the shackles of our relationships and our assumptions and baptize ourselves anew in the fires of whatever bullshit is the next big trend in youth-oriented marketing. We must understand, right here and right now, that “influencers” are not going to save us.
An influencer, for those readers who have never commuted to a funky converted-loft office space for work, is a person, usually a teen or early-twentysomething, who has a large following on some social media platform, and has used that large following to trick some decaying capitalist institution into believing that they are valuable in some way. The decaying capitalist institution pays this teen lots of money to attend a rooftop party or add a branded hashtag to their latest casually racist comedy Vine, and in return, hopes to absorb some of the teen’s cultural cachet before his teen followers find some other, hotter teen to glom onto, or he’s caught on camera saying the n-word.
In an interview with the website Digiday, an anonymous “social media executive” reveals that this shaky arrangement hasn’t exactly been working as planned for the youth-oriented organic energy beverage brands and their ilk.
What went wrong?
We threw too much money at them and did it too quickly. So in 2014, they were making $500 to show up and take some photos. Then it became $1,500. Now it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. They no longer value their art. I remember I once did a speaking thing to a school of young social media people, and they asked, “How do I become an influencer?” So I asked them what they were good at. And they said, “Nothing.” We’ve gotten to the point that if we have a meeting with them, and we ask what they do, and they say “influencer,” we don’t hire them. If they say photographer, we do.
Remember, when the social media executive says “they no longer value their art,” the social media executive is talking about the aesthetic thrill of watching some cherubic white kid do a freestyle rap improv skit about Totino’s Pizza Rolls, or whatever.
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So how much do you pay?
We used to pay $800 for 30 or 40 edited images back in 2014. So add the cost of the product, and it would be like $2,500 to shoot and have content for a few weeks. Now, if you work with some big YouTube guys, the Casey Neistats, those types of people charge $300,000 to $500,000, and brands don’t actually own the rights to it.
The median salary of a high school teacher in the United States is $56,310 per year.
What’s next?
Influencers are going to start disappearing. Brands are going to start realizing the amount of followers you have doesn’t mean shit. Just because photos look good and have 200,000 followers means nothing. You can’t rely on content creators all day long. For the influencers, their entire business is about relationships and friendships. Someone was at Vice, so uses their friend to do photography. Someone knows someone else at Instagram so gets featured on the trending page. We live and die by these platforms today.
Rest in peace, influencers. Long live the next thing.