The Decline of The Instagram Royals

With the launch of social media giants like Instagram, thousands of unknown faces suddenly became internet influencers. Much like a breaking of a meteor shower into outer galactic space, these millions of tiny pieces of nothingness assumed flight and established base into new found platforms that offered them career choices, ones that gave them an actual shot at power and fame.

Internet influencers

very quickly went from the new age anomaly to the conventional. Names no one had heard of before or had only been seen as faces on television or advertisements were now given a voice.

Fan mail lost its relevance when comments were being instantly liked, direct messages were giving you access to the real person and not their managers.

Fan mail lost its relevance when comments were being instantly liked, direct messages were giving you access to the real person and not their managers. What’s better? These people were like us. Coming from normal homes, posting from the dimly lit balconies with cheap fairy-lights, we connected to these influencers like never before. Unlike movie stars, who have a larger than life presence, internet influencers became more like friends.

Coming from normal homes, posting from the dimly lit balconies with cheap fairy-lights, we connected to these influencers like never before. Unlike movie stars, who have a larger than life presence, internet influencers became more like friends.

When we speak influencers, we speak of all types of influencers. There are fashion bloggers, make up artists, book-lovers, art-lovers, food-lovers - even babies and animals. There’s an account for everything, and everyone is selling something or the other. As the influencers slowly grasped the idea of their power over the internet, they swiftly started changing their content creation from a part-time hobby to a full-time career. And the head that stopped to look around with all this commotion in place, was that of brands.

Simply put - brands realised the power of simply obtaining access to faces that huge groups of people already love and believe. It is well known, the psychology of marketing and the need to incite an emotion. (You’re not a good mother if you don’t invest in diapers by XYZ or your dog will die a painful death if it eats anything other than cookies of a certain brand.)

The galvanisation through emotions is the basics of any marketing strategy, but what makes it more impactful is when the person inciting these emotions is a person the consumer already trusts like a friend.

The galvanisation through emotions is the basics of any marketing strategy, but what makes it more impactful is when the person inciting these emotions is a person the consumer already trusts like a friend. As was expected, the Instagram marketing businesses boomed - with people as little as 10,000 followers making money by simply posting a photo with a certain juice or brushing their hair with a certain brush.

So what happened and why is the interest dwindling?

A report published by Mobile Marketer on data they acquired from analytics firm InfluencerDB confirmed what everyone was observing: The obsession around influencers seems to have already peaked. Instagram user engagement on sponsored content is now at an all time low.

“The engagement rate for sponsored posts fell to 2.4 percent in 2019 from 4 percent three years earlier, while the rate for non-sponsored posts slid to 1.9 percent from 4.5 percent for the comparable periods.”

InfluencerDB, an analytics company that studies the data on social media came out with its full report that further pointed out that “the number of followers clicking that elusive double-tap on influencer posts is at a record low.”

The reports further pointed out that the impact is most evident on influencers with bigger follower counts, which begs the question - what will happen when brands no more feel the ‘influence’ of influencers?

The reports further pointed out that the impact is most evident on influencers with bigger follower counts, which begs the question - what will happen when brands no longer feel the ‘influence’ of influencers? When sponcon (sponsored content) loses its relevance, how do influencers make money? And the bigger question: should we expect to see a generation of Instagram influencers find their reintegration back into the dull and dreary of the mundane?

Viraj Ghelani, who started off his journey making small stories out of Snapchat filters has over 130K followers on Instagram now, hangs out with celebrities and has brands trying to collaborate with him on a daily basis. He understands the role the platform played in his life.

"“I think Instagram and my online family is my real family now. They’re always there, they make me feel validated. In return, I understand I have to give the best to them. My actual family feels like an extension sometimes.” " - Viraj Ghelani

Might sound a little extreme, but think about it. Influencers spend the entire day building networks and interacting with their fan base to stay relevant. The very basic thing in an influencer’s life is to be connected with their followers. Once that connection begins to dwindle, everything else will probably begin to fall like dominoes. The community of influencers are facing a bottleneck, something that didn’t really come as a surprise. The major problem with the online world is the rapidly out-dating content. There’s only so many times a follower is willing to look at someone post a Daniel Wellington watch code, or talk about hair pills.

There’s only so many times a follower is willing to look at someone post a Daniel Wellington watch code, or talk about hair pills.

The authenticity of their lives, the major attraction for most of these influencers, is what is slowly getting lost. Take for example, fashion influencers who started off with street hauls and are now posting photos with Louis Vuittons. For the audience, the human connect seems to be getting lost with each post that is marked sponsored. The “friend” becomes an “idea”. One that is in competition with all other ideas around - and that’s another thing - the Internet is getting saturated. The more the general public sees normal people around them turn their lives around with a phone, the more they want to try it out themselves. Either that, or they’re simply bored of it. Social-media influencer/actress Saloni Chopra, who makes waves with brave Feminist content that aims to help drive social change, has a problem with the word “influencer”.

"“On some days its feels strange because I don’t like the word. On other days, I feel I am not worthy enough. I see women who are actually creating a huge impact, but if I could motivate even 10,000 out of the lakhs that follow me, I feel better.”" - Saloni Chopra

But that is not the case with everyone. While Saloni has back-up with acting and script-writing, not everyone else lives the same life. She also points out how it is easy to get emotionally attached to your followers and the follower count, saying she too has found emotional comfort in the love she gets online. “It is intense amount of love, it is overwhelming. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t found emotional support online.”

But does that connect change much for businesses that do not care for what influencers hold with their followers? And can we really blame them?

There are other issues like fake followers and unclear data. For most sponsored posts, there aren’t post-performance deliverables.

Of course, there are also other issues like fake followers and unclear data. For most sponsored posts, there aren’t post-performance deliverables. Another influencer who wishes to stay anonymous points out that brands do sometimes ask for screenshots of analytics, but that doesn’t change anything on the payment front/barter deal. So while brands are willing to put the money on the table, and content creators are more than willing to pick it up - the end result of the transaction seems mighty unclear. With such reports coming out in the open, brands can be expected to be more wary of where they put their money, or change demands of the transaction. Where does this leave the influencers though?

It isn’t uncommon to see influencers who once started with vlogging about their lives now try and establish sustainable businesses that are not part of and do not rest their spine on a particular social media platform. Mind you, social media platforms constantly change policies and algorithms that are not always in the best interest of people trying to make some good old moolah.

With the over commercialisation of content, the “internet neighbourhood” vibe of these platforms begins to get lost. This is why Mark Zuckerberg, at the beginning of 2018 changed Facebook algorithms that pushed down posts from business pages and pushed up posts from friends and family.

With the over commercialisation of content, the “internet neighbourhood” vibe of these platforms begins to get lost. This is why Mark Zuckerberg, at the beginning of 2018 changed Facebook algorithms that pushed down posts from business pages and pushed up posts from friends family. As was expected, businesses experienced a great fall in their reach and swiftly backed out from focusing their energy on Facebook to other brand-friendly platforms like Instagram. But what happens if that changes as well?

While numbers are numbers, and statistics can lie, it is evident that people care less for internet celebrities now than they did before. Whether this is a phase or not remains to be seen, but what this could mean for a generation of millennials that left the ‘safe path’ to create their own brands, remains a mystery that is yet to unfold.

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