The Rise and Fall of the Digital Influencer
The term ‘digital influencer’ may be a little broad, as this can be applied to a wide variety of individuals and brands: from celebrities who market themselves with their thriving online presence to long established press and the journalists whose engaging commentaries live within their online platforms. Yet there is one specific kind of digital influencer whose authenticity and, therefore, shelf life is called into question: the fashion blogger. There are a considerable number of articles that have been printing about the notion – or the fact, as some have sworn – that the demise of the much loved blogging business is looming. Notably, they focus on personal style blogs; the kind that are loathed and loved in equal measures for their owners’ blatant penchant for well-packaged self-promotion. Admittedly, with the punchy one-liners and the statistical references comes a hint of envy, but it could be that these articles are actually on to something. The practice of predicting the blogging world’s waning appeal is getting to be almost as trendy as blogging itself has become – or once was. These arguments are often well founded, especially when focusing on the subject of the public’s continuous hunt for new and exciting things to adore. Most notably, style icon and Editor-In-Chief of French Vogue, Emmanuelle Alt, openly stated her dislike of “the fashion blog fad” when she was recently featured in Porter magazine. So could it be that the critics are correct in their highbrow disdain, or are they just looking to shake up our devotion to what is evidently an annoyingly addictive phenomenon – for the sake of business?
Through persistence, originality and passion digital influencers have managed to gain the trust and adoration of the masses – you need only look at Chiara Farragni’s Instagram account to realise that some of the crème de la crème of the digital world are not absurdly wealthy business moguls or long established brands and media companies, but effortlessly stylish guys n’ gals next door types who happen to be living the dream. And there is much to admire, as blogging isn't all about glamour and living the 'lifestyle experience.' It is hard work, requiring patience and faith in yourself, your content and your audience. Blogging can also be a lesson in swallowing humble pie. It appears that one of these critics, as seen on Buzzfeed’s Style page, thinks that the personal approach to blogging is so successful not only due to an individual's self assurance, but to the industry’s embrace of commercial value in human form – “the most famous bloggers are also the most attractive” – as though they possess some form of magical self-confidence that only the fabulous have command of. Yet, actually, it is quite the opposite. Building an audience of loyal readers is not just a case of having a pretty face: especially if the blogger is as selective as Kristina Bazan about the brands she collaborates with, or foregoes payment for ‘advertorials’ all together, like Ferragni. It is this use of integrity and inner strength that truly keeps the viewers happy. It is a long, arduous process. If your ego needs to be schooled in taking a hard look in the mirror, take up blogging. The constant process of creating content itself - from coming up with an idea that you finally convince yourself doesn't entirely lack imagination, to pitching to photographers, professionals and brands, to having the strength to lead a team and finally putting your thoughts forward to the online world – is a nerve-wracking and truly humbling experience.
Therefore, if blogging is so powerful, albeit now so commonplace, will it continue to rise, or will it diminish in popularity? A poignant question, as it is for the most part, both dismissed as the least noble of the style-centric professions in the world of fashion and near stigmatized in the eyes of the media – particularly where journalism is concerned – while simultaneously being embraced by the masses, the all-too-crucial consumer. Yet others, like Tina Craig of Snob Essentials, see the value of blogging: “we learned that an ideal business should be one with low overhead, no inventory, minimal labor requirements, not limited by personal output… is portable…and has an unlimited global market. I believe blogging is the perfect business!” From this point of view, it is not hard to see why many are attracted to the idea of being influential enough to turn a hobby into a thriving business. But there are darker allegations to the digital influencing world: with whispers that bloggers don’t even bother to pay taxes, because of the ‘freelance’ nature of their work. True or not, this sort of talk is bad for business indeed.
Digital influencing will exist for many years to come, as long as technology itself continues to advance. It may not be in the form of personal style blogs by student-body-president-come-super-model types, but it is not likely that the public’s appreciation for a relatable muse, when armed with intelligence and originality, will dwindle to a barely registered double tap. Admittedly, some ‘influencers’ will fall off the radar, not having the je ne sais quoi to combat over saturation in the field, increasingly demanding brands and clued in readers. The very reasons that some have listed for the failure of the blogging community – lack of ethics and authenticity, lack of originality, the audience’s desire for fresh meat to name a few – are potentially the same reasons why digital influencers may just be able to ride the storm: if they view these obstacles as challenges for improvement and not as signs of failure. There is no such thing, just an opportunity for growth. Pun intended.
Photography: Pedro Antunes