Influence: On Social Media Stardom

Luka Sabbat for The New York Times

By Jaylin Paschal

As social media has done with every aspect of our lives, it's redefined what it means to be "cool." From Tumblr aesthetics and Instagram feeds to Twitter threads and Snapchat stories, we have all become digital cultural curators. Consider the Internet the most impressive museum, art gallery or exhibition the world has ever seen. We streamline our moodboards, ideas and images to effectively add to the story of the twenty-first century young adult.

Some of us, regardless of the effectiveness or thoughtfulness of our storytelling, gain a larger audience than the rest of us. With more listeners comes more influence--more "followers." This word choice was genius on social media's part, as it has allowed social media "influencers" to become a marketing engine.

Once our Instagram models or Twitter babes reach tens of thousands of followers, it's normal to see them begin to infuse advertisement into their regular posts. Posts about coffee runs slowly turn into plugs for flat tummy teas, and regular mirror selfies turn into waist trainer testimonials. "Twitter famous" men litter their feeds and timelines with mini ads for similar products, usually shirtless and always corny. These influencers--usually gorgeous or maybe talented and sometimes fantastic curators and storytellers--are massive vehicles for product peddling. Because if they're gorgeous, talented or wildly original, it's implied that they have a solid handle on what's "in;" what's cool.

Brands and companies begin to collaborate with youth with large followings, hoping they're guiding pockets and raising profits. And once these collaborations happen, the Internet fame develops into something much more tangible. Brands figure these individuals will be just as influential in national campaigns as they are on their personal channels. Essentially, this is how people like Luka Sabbat end up in The New York Times and in Fashion Week shows, or how beauty blogger Jenn Im pairs up with Target. It's also how Kendall Jenner is compared to the supermodel status of Naomi Campbell, under the argument that Jenner's social media following makes her just as large as a fashion "icon" as Campbell. The ability to draw likes, attention, interaction and purchase takes you very far in this world.

Influencer marketing places a focus on "specific key individuals rather than the target market as a whole." Companies look at how item placement and brand names can be centered on the platform of the new cultural epicenter--the Internet. Social media has become the center for capitalism, and it's likely to stay that way. We can expect influencer marketing to be around for a while. After all, "influencers" are the most influential with the demographic who grew up telling all of their stories online--us.

Jaylin PaschalComment