The Influencer Outbreak

Full disclosure: this article was well on its way to becoming one in which influencers are likened to the plague for 600-words straight, hence the now-semi-relevant title.

But, two days before the deadline, like any stable, sensible person would, I decided to hit backspace on everything I had written and simply share some of my thoughts on the topic. No punchlines, no horrifically misplaced dark humour. (No promises.)

This is a topic I’ve a number of opinions about and while I can’t share them all here in the interest of time and my mental well-being (hello, deadline), it deserves a little more than just caustic commentary on hollow online personalities.

Also because I’m only invested in the things that make me suffer lah (hello again, deadline).

So, I’m writing this with no real conclusion in mind because surprise, that’s what happens when you delete a few weeks’ worth of writing because you need to word vomit on an old topic with a new angle.

If you asked me 10 years ago what the word ‘influencer’ could possibly mean, I would’ve probably said: Thinkers. Teachers. Tastemakers. Trailblazers. (Okay those things, but about 500 times less articulate and alliterated.)

Fast forward a decade later, and what did we actually get?

A wave of 20-somethings shilling shit tea on the Internet. Like, not bad tea, but literal shit tea. Lao sai tea. Tea that gives you the runs because that’s now preferable to actual running to get the body you want.

Anyway, because there are only so many diarrhea tea posts I can take on my Explore page on a near-daily basis, I’ll just come out and say it: I honestly can’t wait for the day the influencer bubble bursts.

(Drinking game idea: take a shot every time the word influence/influencer comes up. You’ll probably throw up by the end of this article, and it would have nothing to do with the alcohol.)

I can’t wait for the day we quit calling people with contrived feeds and low-effort, straight-outta-PR copypasta captions hawking some shit they don’t use, ‘influencers’.

They’re over-glorified ad space, at best.

Not too long ago, jaded by celebrity endorsements, we turned to online platforms to get real reviews from real people with real jobs on real products. Then, like everything on God’s green earth, people found ways to bastar-… Monetise that.

Now, we can all spot when a campaign is in full swing from a mile away: every rando with an Instagram account and insert-impressive-number-here following starts raving about the same thing at the same time.

This usually happens en masse, with an execution that’s as thinly-veiled as it is aggravating.

In other words, we’re back at square one – except influencers peddling products are about as believable as celebrity endorsements, without the celebrity, the personality, and the day job.

I can’t wait for more brands to finally realise that most influencers don’t really influence anything, much less buying decisions.

There probably isn’t a brand under the sun that’s going to be mad about getting a whopping amount of likes and views on a post they’ve sponsored. I mean, even on an individual level, we all like ‘likes’, right? And that’s fine, of course.

But numbers, as we’re all slowly starting to learn, need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Beyond providing online validation for the influencers themselves, and by extension, the brands, do likes and views translate into tangible returns? At least enough to justify the amount influencers are getting paid for every post they put out?

No. No, they don’t. Because a double tap doesn’t mean people are about to hurtle out of the door to buy what you’re selling. Just like how a comment doesn’t mean that they respect you, or how a follow doesn’t mean they necessarily think of you as an opinion leader.

For any of that to happen, a genuine connection to your audience is needed. Once forged, credibility and influence (take two shots because I’m saying this unironically for the first time since 600 words ago) naturally follow suit.

I can’t wait for creators who actually care about their craft, their content, their voice, and their community to get the exposure and respect they deserve.

I can’t speak for anywhere else other than here, but in a market saturated with influencers, we’ve a pretty limited pool of local talent in terms of creators who know what they’re doing and more importantly, why they do what they do.

I suppose it’s symptomatic of a climate in which people are far more preoccupied with the influencer label, strictly for the free shit and not much else. Never mind that a vast majority of these folks have nothing of real influence to show for it, plus the personality and persuasiveness of cardboard.

This is especially obvious to me due to my line of work – seeing the same handful of brilliant creators being recycled and stretched thin for every other campaign, because we’re all clinging onto them like the ray of light at the end of a freeloader-laden longkang. And rightfully so.

But in an uncharacteristic move, I’m choosing to remain hopeful.

Hopeful that we still have quality creators out there. Hopeful that they’ll keep honing their craft as they wait to be discovered. And hopeful that brands will ultimately choose to engage them over cardboard, and make that a permanent thing.

Having said all that, it will be a process.

At the end of the day, this is a trend we’re all complicit in, as brands, agencies, and consumers, and it will take us some navigating before we hop off this bandwagon and see influencers for what most of them really are – do-nothing Internet ‘celebs’.

Influencer marketing is here to stay, though we’re all, slowly but surely, starting to catch on to a lot of the BS that permeates the industry. The seeds of influencer fatigue have been sowed; it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the next few years, and how this very landscape shifts.

So, unless our idea of influencers change drastically overnight, the influence they supposedly exert will continue on its downward trajectory of relevance and attachment to reality… Like shit tea.


Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors on this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of C27, our CEO, the management, the fish in our fish tank, and/or all the awesome people within the agency. The content and opinions shared are the personal views of the author so please don’t sue us

…or the author.

Audrey Lee

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