As many of us have been doing this summer, I was surfing through YouTube in hopes of finding some entertaining videos to watch. After a few clicks and some YouTube recommendations, I came across a series from Awesomeness TV entitled, The Next Influencer. This YouTube series essentially is a bunch of American teens living in a huge house while competing in various challenges. At the end of each episode, the contestants rank themselves based on their belief of how everyone should be ranked. Basically, winning challenges doesn’t move you up in the ranks and the competition quickly becomes a teen war-zone filled with secrecy, bullying, and lots of drama. But at the end of it all, these young teens are bent on becoming the next big influencer and are driven to create content that garners more attention, fame, and followers.
As a teen who is the same age as the contestants, I was baffled to see how intense young people are in their desire for popularity. Given that it was a filmed show, so things are tweaked here and there to make it more dramatic, the entire concept of being an ‘influencer’ is something that is relatively new to the market. So where did this influencer craze begin and why is it shaping modern marketing?
With the rise of TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, many young teens are leaning towards the idea of becoming an influencer as a career. Influencers are people or organizations who have a large number of followers on social media platforms and have platforms that many people frequently visit. They become influencers when companies pay them to endorse their products, become brand ambassadors or collaborate to create a specific consumer product. The large following that the influencer has is utilized by companies to advertise their products/services to a more specific group of people. The fame of the influencer is also a plus as it makes the product more appealing, so followers are more inclined to purchase it. Influencers can make money by posting about a brand’s products. According to AndrewMcCarty.com, the average cost of an Instagram post in 2021 ranges between $10- $10k +, depending on the number of followers the influencer has.
Before all of this craze began, what was social media even meant for? The oldest YouTubers began posting videos and content out of their own will and because they enjoyed creating videos that were entertaining and relatable. They never began creating videos as a method of making money, but when YouTube started paying creators for the traffic and attention that they generated, people had enough money that they did not need a regular job and treated YouTube as their full-time career. Making money on YouTube was suddenly the new jackpot, garnering interest from teens. Taking the adults who successfully made a living out of creating videos as role models, young teens became attracted to this idea.
Why is it appealing?
Basically, the success that supposedly comes with being an influencer is appealing to teens as it debunks the traditional belief of how one can gain money. When one thinks of the path to success, it usually consists of getting good grades, attending a prestigious university and landing a high-ranking position at a famous company. Dropping out of school to pursue a career on YouTube has become the ‘coolest’ way to succeed. Other than the belief that working on social platforms is easier than going through school, the fame and attention that comes with building a following are also appealing to many teens. The perceived freedom of living alone at a young age and making lots of money has pulled teens into putting themselves on media platforms, hoping to gain success through their own means.
As more and more children aspire to become internet famous, is it realistic to dream of being an influencer? It is common knowledge at this point that all that is seen online is not true. Filters, editors and photoshop are used when posting images. Influencers hire others to work on their media image, and a lot of planning goes into social media posts. The importance given to one’s appearance has translated into beauty = success. Young teens morph themselves into who they think society wants them to be as they aim for hourglass figures and 6 packs. While using social media as a platform to express oneself, inspire and entertain others, ‘influencers’ are usually focused on bodily appearance. Instead of spreading positivity, viewers are left feeling worse about themselves and their own image. Instead of praising young teens for their wealth and fame and aspiring to follow in their footsteps, it is time that teens are inspired to create their own version of success. Some paths seem easier than others and are glorified, but innovation and creativity can take you a long way.