Rise of the De-Influencers

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Sir Isaac Newton famously said for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. While he was referring to the laws of physics, it seems the same rings true in the world of social media.

The pervasive use of influencers to promote everything from beauty products to fitness equipment to technology has given rise to a new voice on the social media block – the de-influencer. As the name sounds, de-influencers tell people what not to buy, and paradoxical as it may seem, the trend is going viral.

The question arises what this will mean for the $15 billion influencer industry – one in which an estimated 95 percent of brands have utilized influencers to promote their products. Meanwhile, the de-influencer movement is rapidly gaining traction, with over 100 million views on TikTok and new creators hastily joining the ranks.

Gen Z especially is listening, and this audience seems to be most impacted by de-influencers’ messaging. The growing movement tends to counter consumerism and promote lower cost products, as well as emphasize sustainability – all messages that resonate with Gen Z.

Says TikToker, Alyssa Kromelis, “most people can’t afford to buy every single thing that goes viral, but they want to feel like they belong and fit in.” Kromelis’ strategy is to replace high priced name brand items with products shoppers can find at their local Walmart or drugstore that she says deliver equally effective results.

Other de-influencers call out brands and influencers by name, exposing what they say as hypocritical or simply unfounded claims, often garnering views upwards of seven figures in the process.

In light of the firepower behind de-influencer campaigns, what should brands do to preserve their integrity and reputation?

Since de-influencing is said to arise from a combination of trends – stirred by inflation, a weak economy, consumers feeling a hit to their pocketbooks, and the increasing desire by young consumers to support sustainability and environmental consciousness – brands that speak to these concerns in their marketing campaigns may well escape the backlash of the de-influencer agenda.

Interestingly, the flip side to the influencer coin has its own flip side. Those on the influencer side of the fence accuse de-influencers of doing the very things they decry exploiting products in order to gain followers and hopefully go viral, in many cases promoting products of their own in place of the ones they’re telling you not to buy. Critics claim it’s merely putting a different name on the same practice.

Since it is likely the influencer/de-influencer reality is here to stay for a while, at least until the next big trends hits the social media world, Marketing Insider recommends a number of ways for brands to walk the fine line. Read about them here.

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