In past years, influencers have become some of the most influential people on the internet. They have taken over social media platforms with their content, whether it’s about their picturesque travels or perfectly lighted plates of food. It’s created an influencer culture where they have cultivated large audiences who idolize the lifestyles they see on social media. These audiences are willing to pay to emulate this ideal life they see. It makes sense that using social media influencers has become a vital marketing strategy for many companies. A single post on Instagram can cause a product to sell out instantly or an app to rise to the top of the App Store.
The world has been very different in the last few months and how we interact with each other has changed drastically. The way we are exposed to new products and businesses has changed. Most importantly, the content we want to see has changed.
Since the beginning of COVID-19 and quarantine, a lot of influencers have stopped being able to create new content. They are no longer able to travel or go out which they relied on to create a career online. Instagram feeds which used to be filled with pictures in luxurious places are now filled with photos from home in their pajamas. Influencers now have to adapt and evolve to keep their followers engaged. Some of them have completely changed what they share with more emphasis on their home life and things to do to get by during quarantine. Others have adapted by continuing to have photoshoots, only indoors.
But there’s only so much content people can create when they’re stuck at home. Followers only want to see so many sourdough and whipped coffee recipes. As a result, a lot of followers are beginning to reevaluate what they want to see in their feed when they open Instagram.
Some have come under fire for how they are handling the current situation with COVID-19. Many of them have been criticized for spreading bad tips and information.
An Instagram influencer of The Bachelor fame, Krystal Nielson, said in a now-deleted post that in order to protect themselves from COVID-19, they should sign up for her detox program. This spread of misinformation is dangerous and hard to control once someone posts it.
Influencers have always had a bad history of sharing false information and having their big audiences believe it. Before COVID-19, the consequences could be an unhappy customer from a bad product sponsorship. Now, the consequences could be someone’s health.
During this pandemic, it’s clearer than ever that influencers must hold themselves accountable for the information they are spreading.
With these changing times, it can be hard to predict what will happen or when life will be normal again. The people behind these accounts should ask themselves what type of impact they want to make.
Could this be the start of the end of influencer culture? Or at least a major redefinition of what it means to be an influencer?
I’m Yujia Zuo, the Head of Funding for the Guerilla Marketing Society, and have been a part of the organization since my freshman year. I’m a graduating senior in the Questrom School of Business concentrating in Marketing and Finance.