The Beauty World and Influencers: Will 2019 be the Year of Instagram Fatigue?
2018 found influencers dominating the fashion and beauty industries. Influencers now live within the Instagram app. Ten years ago the digital space looked much different. Blogs were the main destination for style consumption with many new fashion stars establishing themselves as power players in the up-and-coming online world. When Instagram was released in 2010, its ascent was noticeable at first, but it really took off about a year later in 2011. Savvy beauty public relations firms and others in the industry took notice. It was in 2011 that I added Instagram to my iPhone and I was immediately smitten with the app. Within a few weeks, I was friends with many around the world who owned and loved the same dog breed. That’s the beauty of Instagram, you can easily connect with others who have the same interests. In the early days of the app, Instagram felt like a community-people truly cared about each other, complete strangers, and they made meaningful connections. This was before influencers became a ‘thing’ and pre beauty public relations and other PR teaming up with brands to convert eyeballs to money.
It was in 2011, and the beginning of 2012, that brands started to reach out to bloggers who had established themselves with an Instagram presence. In the beginning, working with these newly minted “influencers” was easy. Brands sent them free products and the style blogger would either write about them on their blog, or post a shot on Instagram. Both influencers and brands quickly learned that Instagram harnessed more clicks than a blog article. Throughout much of 2012 and 2013, influencer culture took off on the popular social media platform. Facebook who? Style and beauty gurus and newbies dove headfirst into Instagram – other social platforms lost their luster. Many Instagram influencers teamed up with agents, and of course the agent wanted to hop on the money train as well. Soon, working with influencers went beyond the exchange of free products. Brands started paying Instagram influencers – beauty and fashion – to post one or a series of snaps featuring their products.
In 2012 Facebook purchased Instagram. Fans of Instagram’s sense of community, such as myself, felt letdown. Instagram had a clean, streamlined layout whereas Facebook is cluttered with too much going on – similar to Times Square. And we knew changes would be coming once the sale was complete. From 2012-2018, the rise of fashion and beauty influencers was fast and the momentum continues to this day. Ironically, as other social media platforms waned in Instagram’s shadow, YouTube remained relevant – especially within the beauty world. Since YouTube is video, it makes sense that the platform fosters community for makeup and skincare lovers. Makeup tutorials made a handful of beauty influencers superstars. Big beauty companies hired them to hawk their products – for a fee of course. The larger a beauty guru’s following, the more they command for sponsored posts.
YouTube influencers straddle both video and Instagram with ease. If a beauty and fashion star has an established following on YouTube, many of their fans also follow on Instagram – the two platforms go hand-in-hand when it comes to loyalty and followers. As Instagram gained even more popularity in 2014, influencers fans followed them to the photo sharing app and they became even more powerful.
And of course since 2012, change occurred on Instagram via Facebook executives. Changes were slow and not immediate and to users, it didn’t seem as if FB had completely changed the platform. Beauty and fashion influencers cemented their ascent on the platform and with the help of public relations, they earned big bucks.
Pay per Play
In the early days of Instagram, brands of all sizes were able to work with influencers. As a beauty public relations and fashion public relations firm, many of the smaller brands we work with were able to afford Instagram influencer fees. However, since 2014, the pay per play game changed; small brands could no longer afford the rising fees of influencer Instagram placement. Today, many top fashion and beauty influencers are paid over $50,000 for one Insta mentioning a brand or one of their products. How can small brands and upstarts without VC afford to keep up with the influencer game? They can’t. In 2018, most influencer sponsored posts were from big brands such as Estée Lauder and Michael Kors. Sadly, the art of discovery no longer exists on Instagram – it’s paid form which means in a way it’s not authentic. Even smaller, niche brands working with beauty public relations, cannot afford the astronomical fees influencers command. Most influencers themselves don’t care about authenticity or the art of discovery – it’s about getting as many sponsored posts as one can. And really, who can blame them? However, we don’t expect this influencer phenomenon to last forever, and I’m sure many influencers know this as well.
How many selfies can one take before any random account resembles a cheesy grids of self-absorbed shots? Well, we are there in a sense. One could opine that we are already at peak Instagram. I know from my own posting habits, Instagram fatigue hit me well over 2 years ago – I’ve only posted two times in the past year. Keep in mind, I used to post updates of my dog several times a week. Once “influencers” overtook Instagram, the app changed, at least for me. It went from feeling like a community or small hives of interest to full on commercial. Now when I hop on a style star or beauty guru’s page, it looks like a grid full of ads. How many selfies can one post before it’s ultra cringeworthy? From my personal feed, I get the feeling others feel the same way. Once Facebook implemented an algorithm, which didn’t show real time updates, it threw many die-hard users for a not so pleasant loop. Then, sponsored/paid posts were forced in a user’s feed and also in their stories. When I’d log back in, it was difficult to find what my friends were up to. The algorithm showed me posts from days ago and my stream was flooded with ads. Not the Instagram I grew to love.
In 2018, we heard the honest truth from a few big beauty brands: Throwing money at influencers to promote products doesn’t always deliver an upswing in order or positive ROI. As a beauty and fashion PR, we already knew this, but it was reassuring that big brands were honest. It’s simple, people still crave authenticity.