If you’ve spent some time on social media, you are probably familiar with the term “social media influencer”: a popular persona online who has the ability to sway public opinion on any specific topic.
The rise of the influencer status has led to the ideal of making a career out of posting one’s lifestyle and hobbies online. In fact, a study in the UK found that 17 percent of kids want to be influencers when they grow up. Straying from the typical roles of the doctor, the lawyer, and the teacher of the past, some young children are hoping to embrace the stardom of being an online personality. But is this realistic? Is it sustainable? According to the generations, the answer varies.
We did our own research and interviews to see exactly what people think of the influencer career.
For the most part, people seem to understand that living the “influencer lifestyle” is a valid source of income. The market is expected to reach $13.8 billion during 2021. At the minimum, brand deals pay the rent—and at the most, paid ads can offer a luxurious lifestyle. One of our Gen Z interviewees shares their opinion, “I think being an influencer is a perfectly acceptable career. The influencer lifestyle seems to provide financial stability, flexible working hours, plenty of travel, and personal satisfaction.” The majority of responses echo this sentiment, with 86% of our surveyees agreeing that it can be a profitable lifestyle. Where people seem to disagree is how long this career will last, and if they would try it out for themselves.
Categorized by how big of a following they have, influencers can be anyone with a platform of 1,000 followers (dubbed “micro influencers”) to over 100 million followers (“macro influencers”). Though, the bigger the platform, the more profit an influencer stands to gain from their posts. With this comes a question of integrity. The older generations ask if these influencers really love the product they are selling—or is it all about a check? One baby boomer explains: “I think smaller influencers are more interesting and believable than larger ones where I think whatever they post is only about the money.”
Younger generations are more likely to listen to influencers about what to buy. Forty-four percent of Gen Z has purchased a product based on the recommendation of an influencer, though only 26 percent of all online users have stated that they have. One young person remarks, “If Katie Jane Hughes, my favorite makeup artist on Instagram, tells me something is good, I trust her opinion wholeheartedly.” Though 52 percent of boomers and 56 percent of Gen Xers make buying decisions based on reviews, they have not built trust in the recommendations of these online personalities.
One of the most iconic influencer collaborations amid the pandemic came from Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods giant, and Charli D’Amelio, a TikTok star. Joining forces to create a viral dance trend, the collaboration raised money for the nonprofits Feeding America and Matthew 25. This goes to show that being an influencer doesn’t have to be entirely self-promotional. There is a lot of good that can come from using a huge platform.
The simple takeaway? Gen Zers and millennials are optimistic about the future of influencing. They trust that the career is sustainable (and may even want to take part in it). Most important, they trust in their chosen influencers, and listen to them when it comes to making purchases. Gen X and baby boomers are on the other side of the spectrum. They acknowledge the success of influencing, but need a bit more convincing to change their buying habits or career pathways. What do you say? Would you pick up the selfie stick and become an influencer if you could?
Need help with your next influencer campaign? That’s what we’re here for.