Good question, Gabriela. You’re neither the first nor the last person to ask about the influencer bubble, when it’ll burst, and what the fallout will be. So, for you and everyone else asking, I’ve got a different question: When will the bubble bubble burst?
“That’s not a thing and makes no sense,” you might say. “You just wanted to end your intro paragraph on a dramatic question.” Okay, fair. But that drama comes with a point: influencing isn’t a bubble.
Think about it this way: Who was the first influencer? Was it Bella Hadid? Some Kardashian? Maybe it was FuckJerry, they’ve been around for a while. If you answered any of those, you’re not digging far enough back.
“Influencer” in 2019 implies “social media”, but that’s just the latest form of a much older idea: the brand spokesperson. Brands have used characters, celebrities, even Santa Claus to promote their image since approximately the dawn of time. Influencing isn’t some Hot New Thing, it’s the Marlboro Man gone super saiyan.
But, your specific question talks about the influencer economy. To any readers out there unsure of what that means, it’s shorthand for “throwing millions of dollars at people who are pretty and famous to talk about your #brand on Instagram”. It’s a model that’s been around for a number of years, and you’re right: it’s starting to look a little threadbare.
We’ve established, though, that influencing isn’t a bubble to burst. It’s just the current state of one of the OG marketing tactics. So what happens when it stops working? Simply put, it doesn’t burst — it evolves.
It’s a shift we’re already seeing. Major influencers (the Bella Hadids, the Kardashians) aren’t pulling in the numbers that companies want. Instead, the market’s started to shift away from these “macro influencers” and towards more focused “micro influencers”.
These are people whose content caters towards specific interests. Their follower counts are lower, but their followers are loyal and interested. Look at it this way: I love Ariana Grande, but I’m not going to take her advice on kitchenware. If Binging with Babish recommends a chef’s knife, though, it’ll be in my cart before he finishes his sentence.
So, to answer your question, the influencer bubble isn’t a bubble. The house of cards economy of brand spokespeople is secretly krazy-glued together, shifting from table to table and masquerading as a new construction each time. Is it falling off the backs of the macro influencers you know? Absolutely. But the smaller, more relatable influencers are just waiting to catch it.