The revolution will, it appears, be streamed after all.
For those who have just got their heads around the extraordinary $16.4 billion brand value of influencers, TikTok is suddenly full of their apparent nemesis, ‘deinfluencers’.
Yes, deinfluencing is everywhere, persuading viewers what not to buy and what does not work as spectacularly as claimed, or at all, in a trend that is threatening to upend the digital marketing campaigns of retailers and brands.
The term first cropped up at the turn of the year, conjured by social media creators who have taken to either urging viewers against buying something, or criticizing favorite brands and products.
And use of the #deinfluencing hashtag has spun off at an exponential rate, especially in the beauty and lifestyle markets.
Because, of course, many influencers are only too happy to promote products purely for profit, rather than merit. Deinfluencing is meant to turn that on its head, so if traditional influencers hype a product, deinfluencers are there to challenge the hype.
In many ways it is also a fresh way for creators to build their credibility and be seen as honest and authentic at a time when differentiation is increasingly difficult.
Mikayla Nogueira And MascaraGate
The current situation is also a reaction to social media pile-ons, exemplified recently by TikTok drama ‘MascaraGate’ that engulfed influencer Mikayla Nogueira after she was accused of wearing fake eyelashes while extolling the virtues of L’Oréal’s lash-enhancing product.
On Jan. 25 this year, Nogueira posted a video to her TikTok account — which has over 14.4 million followers and 1.1 billion likes — with the caption These Are The Lashes Of My Dreams!! and added an on-screen caption to say she was partnering with beauty brand L’Oréal.
The short clip received over 23 million views as Nogueira applied a L’Oréal mascara called Telescopic Lift, before revealing thicker and longer-looking lashes while waxing lyrical about the results.
So far, so normal.
But on Jan. 26 that all changed when another beauty influencer, Jeffree Star, tweeted an image of the same telescopic lift mascara and said “Let’s get this review started… Jeffree Star Approved or Nah?!”.
Other TikTok users weighed in, calling out Nogueira’s original post as fake, no doubt alerting many other brands, especially those which have historically poured ad dollars into influencer marketing and sponsorship, who will be watching the situation with concern.
But are influencing and deinfluencing not simply two sides of the same coin?
Criticizing or promoting a product both potentially drive engagement and although deinfluencing may make influencers appear more credible or honest in the short-term, it poses challenges for their long-term careers if they rely on brands endorsements to get paid.
Influencer Brands Struggle
The anti-cnsumerism reaction also comes at a time when some influencer brands have been struggling.
Sephora ended its relationship with Selfless by Hyram and Item Beauty by Addison Rae at the start of the year, while celebrity-brand backed Morphe’s 18-store network has shuttered and gone into Chapter 11.
Meantime, Kosé-owned color cosmetics brand Tarte’s 50-influencer Dubai trip has also drawn harsh criticism for its unedifying lavishness in the middle of a global economic crisis, moving Vogue Business to ask whether influencer trips are ‘tone deaf’ in 2023.
Beyond the economic challenges, reaction to influencer culture seems to have emerged from online discussions about reducing buying in the new year, with many younger users challenging themselves not to purchase anything new, clear out their spaces and get rid of anything they do not need.
In turn, that also prompted discussions about ill-advised purchases.
Most influencers on TikTok operate an Amazon
For most influencers, it is selling such items on either a commission-based basis or through upfront fees from brands that earns them money.
Monetizing deinfluencing is going to much harder to achieve and the question is, while authenticity may sell, will brands buy it?