It’s time to talk about ‘influencers’

by Amanda Landwehr / Arts & Culture Editor

Photo courtesy of CoWomen on Unsplash.

To most people, grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, getting a manicure or going to a class at SoulCycle are simply the mundane tasks of adult life. But to some, these chores are wildly entertaining—if a Youtube star from across the country is “vlogging” it.

The terms “social media influencer,” “Youtuber” and “vlogger” have recently entered into the everyday jargon of younger generations, but what do these titles mean?

According to mediakix.com, vloggers (short for ‘video bloggers’) are predominantly Youtube-based content creators who make a living by “capturing and sharing vlogs characteristically shooting themselves at arm’s length throughout their everyday activities.” This can include filming anything from a trip to Europe to a trip to the mall. As Youtubers gain a larger subscriber count across various media platforms, (Instagram, Twitter, Youtube) advertising partnerships with popular vloggers becomes an appealing option for marketers hoping to reach a younger and digitally-active audience—and it’s working.

These partnerships typically consist of a well-known company contacting a Youtuber and drafting a contract based on exchanging free merchandise or money in return for brand promotion or in-video advertising. A brand deal might take the form of a sponsored Instagram post, where the influencer shares a photo of themselves wearing a clothing company’s product, or an in-video sponsorship where the content-creator might record a clip of him/herself taking a trendy hair-growth vitamin. Even Hollywood elites are guilty of participating in brand deals—Kim Kardashian gets paid up to $500,000 for each sponsored Instagram post. 

But celebrities like Kim Kardashian aren’t the only people benefiting from influencer marketing. In fact, one of the main appeals to “vloggers” is that they appear to be seemingly average people who base their content off of their relatability to viewers.

One of these “daily vloggers” is lifestyle Youtuber Brooke Miccio. Initially, Miccio began her channel as nothing more than a hobby. But throughout the years, Miccio reached a following of over 200,000 subscribers on Youtube, and her podcast titled “Gals on the Go” has thousands of listens on platforms such as Spotify and iTunes. After moving to Boston for an entry-level tech sales position, Miccio decided to pursue social media full-time and leave her job. According to Miccio, she makes more money from posting Youtube vlogs and podcast episodes than she did working an 9 to 5 day job.

Although some individuals disapprove of Youtube as a medium in favor of holding on to media platforms such as television and cable, there is an increasing popularity surrounding Youtube “influencers,” and viewers worldwide—approximately 700 million—adore it.

From Youtuber Jake Paul making national headlines after performing dangerous pranks at his mansion in Los Angeles to creator Lily Singh (better known as IISuperwomanII) earning a spot on Forbes list of world’s highest-paid Youtube stars in 2017 with a net worth of $10.5 million, these Youtubers clearly have no intention of slowing down. And honestly, that kind of horrifies me.

Personally, I have seen the increasing impact of vloggers and Youtube stars on nearly every facet of pop culture throughout recent years. I’ve never been one to lash out against new trends in technology or social media, but to me, the recent influx of social media influencers is a somewhat unsettling thought when considering the potential impact these influencers can have on young viewers. 

A recent survey conducted by Harris Poll asked 3,000 children from the United States, the United Kingdom and China to choose from five career professions what they aspired to be when they grew up. From the five available options, (astronaut, musician, professional athlete, teacher, youtuber/vlogger) nearly 30 percent of the children surveyed from the U.S. and U.K. reported wanting to become Youtubers or vloggers when they grew up—only 11 percent wanted to become astronauts.

Although the term “vlogging” or “social media influencer” may cause people to roll their eyes and mourn over the state of society, this wildly popular medium is certainly worth discussing. When young viewers see someone like Miccio who supports herself entirely on Instagram advertisements, brand sporships and Youtube incomes, some important questions are brought up: can anyone succeed in social media? Should anybody be an influencer?

As a college-aged woman and an avid consumer of media, I am the target audience of companies who choose to sponsor social media influencers. I absentmindedly watch vlogs while getting ready in the morning, and have even become somewhat attached to these individuals after years of being a subscriber. I empathize with vloggers after they share news of a breakup, celebrate when they get hired at a new job and even, sometimes unknowingly, become subject to the sponsored products shared within their videos.

But despite the sheer amount of advertising that accompanies my daily digest of social media, I like to think that myself and others are able to exercise our media literacy to filter out ads that might be harmful or repetitive. However, younger viewers may unwillingly find themselves influenced to buy certain products before they develop an awareness of the media which surrounds them. 

There is room for social media vloggers to positively impact young viewers. Youtubers such as Coyote Peterson, who runs an educational adventure/nature channel, and Liza Koshey, a content creator who makes (mostly) family-friendly videos for both kids and adults, show the potential for Youtube stars to serve as a positive impact on kids without being too reliant on in-video advertisements and corporate sponsorships. 

I’m not trying to make the argument that all Youtube content should be family-friendly, or that brand deals are inherently bad. But, as media literacy continues to adapt and develop with each new stride in technology, I think it’s important to realize how kids and teens alike can find themselves compelled to purchase a specific product due to sneaky in-video advertising. Certain Youtubers even go as far to call their loyal subscribers “family” or “friends,” so when these same social media stars use their fans of a means of sponsoring a product, I can’t help but question the intentions of that channel. But for now, social media stars will continue to serve as walking advertisements in exchange for nothing more than a check. 



Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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