What does the post-burnout, algorithm-fatigue influencer landscape look like? Vogue Business posed the question to me last week and I was happy to share some insights.
Vogue Business’s article is part of a series looking at the evolution of the ‘creator economy’ and this article looked specifically at how ‘influencers’ (i.e. bloggers and Instagrammers) are maturing in today’s fast-paced Gen-Z obsessed world.
When I started Disneyrollergirl in 2007, it was simply a bit of fun. No agenda, certainly no commercial gain and early blogging felt like an altogether purer community of like-minded fashion enthusiasts coming together around a shared interest. We didn’t even post that many photos of ourselves so there was no unconscious bias around age, size, looks, ethnicity etc. Ahhh different times!
Then the brands and advertisers came along and turned this grassroots culture into a business. C’est la vie! Over time bloggers moved onto social media platforms and monetised their content and audiences with paid posts. What’s happened over the years is that these platforms are now run by unpredictable algorithms. Instagram has segued to prioritise video content (i.e., ‘Reels’), an attempt to compete with its younger competitor TikTok, thus grabbing share of that Gen-Z audience.
One thing I’ve learnt from being on social media for 20 years (starting with discussion forums, which to me were the precursor of social media) is that you must keep evolving. Even when you find the magic formula for success, platforms can switch tactic at any time. From posting casual in-the-moment photos in the early Instagram days, we had to learn to create more professional-looking imagery to appeal to brands. Then it shifted to raw again (hello Stories!) and then to Reels. (And OMG, remember when comment pods were a thing?)
Quite rightly, people who use Instagram professionally are pissed off at being controlled by the app. If you don’t pivot to how it wants to be used, it will stop sharing your posts to your followers. A disaster for influencers for whom views and Likes equal fees. As a result, early influencers are looking elsewhere to develop their communities.
I’ve been reading a bit about ‘post platform communities’, where creators have a two-way dialogue with their audiences rather than being in one-way broadcast mode. The newest one is Geneva, a Gen-Z oriented app that groups conversations around themes. These are more personable and allow for a real ‘community’ feel where regular interactors feel valued and part of a tribe.
And it’s interesting to note a shift to newsletters like Substack – blogging by another name! Newsletters are considered more intimate as they land directly in an inbox. This and blogging appeal to me as an alternative to the ‘performing seal’ nature of TikTok and Reels. (Where is the social media app for introverts, I want to know…)
In the end though, my main takeaway is that algorithm aside, the user is the person who controls the platform. Every new app that comes along thinks it’s going to be used in a certain way. And then never is! Users inevitably adapt these platforms for their own use, hence TikTok is far more than silly dances now. It can be a comedy platform, a search engine, a study aid, a self-help refuge. So creators just have to learn to be innovative whatever platform they use, avoid the complacency trap and keep evolving their content in their favour – just like any media does, I guess.
The Vogue Business article is here (paywall) and it’s Part 2 in a six-part series on the Business of Influence.
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Veronika Heilbrunner by Tommy Ton; Vogue Business
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here
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