Influencers have gotten a bad rap lately. There are growing concerns about how individuals with a large social media presence commercialise their following. Prior to the recent backlash, paid promotions were often not labelled as such.Moreover, so-called ‘fakefluencers’ – individuals who pay for click-farm followers on the cheap and then charge exorbitant sums for sponsored posts – will likely defraud companies out of more than $1 billion in 2019 alone. The Fyre Festival debacle, which relied on influencers to sell a misrepresented music event, has tarnished things further. The incident served to focus a greater lens on the not just the power of influence but how it can be manipulated in the marketplace.Finally, those that worry about the impact of social media on mental health have made more noise lately, leading to Instagram removing a public display of the number of likes each post receives (and then a wave of public skepticism about whether such action will have any effect). Moving forward, more brands, influencers, and consumers are
moving towards being more mindful about the impact of social media on people’s
mental health, using influence for positive advocacy rather than just commercial
opportunity.However, all this bad press has buried some positive developments – what’s been termed ‘good influence.’The term ‘influencer’ itself is relatively new and the industry that surrounds it is even newer. At its inception, much of the conversation surrounding the phenomenon was more positive than it is today; technology had democratised media in such a way that anyone with a camera and an Internet connection could become famous. Everyday people with talent or an uncommon point-of-view could now attract a devoted following virtually overnight.
This revolutionised the way we perceived ‘celebrity’ and even more so the way we perceived brands. Consumers were no longer purchasing products based solely on more traditional advertising – they were doing their research, heeding word of mouth and ultimately demanding more from brands to sell them experiences and points of view alongside the product. The devotion of this following has led to criticism.
Young children today devour influencer-made content and now spend 65% of their time online on YouTube in particular – and even rate a career on the platform as more desirable than being an astronaut. This is a startling shift considering the rise of creators on online platforms is still relatively new. So, what are they watching?
Finding the ‘good influence’ on YouTube
Among all the video gamer streams and unboxing videos, there’s a new brand of influencers emerging, which seem to have the potential to actually improve the lives of the people that watch them. Consider Unjaded Jade. With more than 1 million views, one of her most popular uploads is of her (apparently grueling) 5am morning routine. Some of her videos are sort of confessionals, in which she vents about the pressure of schooling to today’s hyper-competitive atmosphere. But a lot of her posts are just of her revising. Looking at the comments section of her videos, it’s clear that the community of followers that buoy her page are also studying as they watch. Whether it’s for encouragement or just company isn’t clear but the sentiment is: it’s a wholly supportive conversation – ‘Study Tube.’ The untold success of Jade’s channel inspired other offshoots and now at least one influencer talent agency, called Sixteenth, represents only content creators under the banner of ‘good influence.’ YouTube has also noticed the ‘good influence’ on its platform and in October of last year earmarked $20 million to invest in educational content creators.As, in the eyes of Gen Z, YouTube influencers are now seen as cooler than moonwalkers, young content creators are able to sway their audience in a way that finger-wagging adults simply can’t. There’s a new league of positive role models, sort of ‘study buddies,’ who are also peers with their viewers. The appetite for this sort of content appears to be growing. Like any other tool, what YouTube is, depends on how we use it. In the summer of 2006, it was the fastest-growing website on the web – and its reach has only continued growing since. YouTube now receives more than 30 million visitors per day and hosts thousands of pieces of content from creators across a wide spectrum.
Helping shape the world in a commendable way
Now that the dust has settled after its meteoric rise, the potential for the platform to be an online destination for educational, positive content is clear. And savvy brands will take note and align themselves with this trend. Supporting this sort of content will please kids and their parents in a single gesture. And if brands throw their weight behind it, they’ll be helping to shape the virtual world children now live in – and in a commendable way. It’s often a misconception that the realm of influence can be harnessed solely for showcasing ‘things’ – it can also be a powerful platform for changing perception, encouraging positive behaviour on social channels, and dispelling stereotypes around the space.Supporting an online community for young people to revise and encourage each other in their scholastic endeavors feels like a wholly positive thing, which, perhaps, is why no one is talking about it.