In recent years, the power of social media influencers has surged as a means of marketing and brand promotion. With their ability to reach millions of followers, influencers have become the go-to resource for companies looking to increase their visibility and credibility. For consumers, influencers are raw, authentic, relatable, and therefore trustworthy.
However, there has recently been a rise in voices that are critical of influencer culture for its encouragement of rampant, unnecessary consumption. This trend, called de-influencing, has taken social media by storm, and it’s now challenging how brands and influencers can maintain their sense of trust and authenticity.
In the ASEAN gaming community, influencers are sharing negative opinions on peripherals like gaming chairs, microphones, and headsets, often those that prioritize flashy looks over comfort, performance, and build quality. Meanwhile, influential dermatologists are advising users on which skincare products are ineffective — or even potentially harmful. Those are just two examples of many, which can also involve criticism of influencers who promote these products, implying that they only do it for the money.
Let’s dive deeper into this fascinating shift in social media behavior.
So, what exactly is de-influencing?
De-influencing has emerged largely on TikTok, arguably the key platform in the modern influencer landscape. There, some content creators have turned from promoting products to encouraging their followers to be more mindful of their purchases and to make independent, informed choices about the products they buy, while others have made their names on calling out overhyped products, overspending, and the consumer culture that dominates social media today — partly owing to the rise of influencers. Some de-influencers are also working to raise awareness of how consumer choices impact the environment and society, the business and production practices those choices inadvertently support, and ways to adopt a more sustainable and mindful approach to consumption.
This may seem like the death knell for influencer culture, but in fact it represents a healthy critical attitude and an opportunity for progress.
Claudia Pusung, a Senior Digital Account Executive at Vero’s Indonesia office, said, “De-influencing gives us perspective on our spending and helps us prioritize the things we need. It also helps us see through empty hype by suggesting that we can substitute certain products advertised on social media with items that we probably already have at home. This can make us more critical and conscientious consumers, which is not a bad thing in a world where costs are rising faster than wages and pollution from packaging and manufacturing is widespread. It’s a wake-up call that both brands and consumers should heed.”
As this trend gains traction, authenticity and trust have become more important than ever for both brands and influencers.
What do consumers think of de-influencers?
Consumers have a right to be critical of brands and products, whether because those products are poorly made or because the brand’s practices don’t match its professed values. According to a recent study by Harris Poll and Google Cloud, 82% of shoppers prefer a brand’s values to align with theirs, and over 40% will share their concerns with friends and family and on social media if there’s a value mismatch. Consumers also dislike marketing messages focused only on stimulating desires, greenwashing, and misleading claims. This explains why de-influencing, with its emphasis on a more mindful and sustainable approach to consumption, has quickly gained traction: it says publicly what many already believed.
As the impact of de-influencing continues to grow, consumers are becoming more conscious of the impact of their purchasing decisions and demanding greater transparency and authenticity from brands and influencers. They are also becoming savvier about influencer tactics and more critical of those who appear deceitful or manipulative. As a result, the demand for honest and relatable content will grow.
“The rise of de-influencers is likely to change the way brands approach influencers by placing a greater emphasis on authenticity, transparency, and values alignment,” said Umaporn Whittaker-Thompson, Group VP of Consumer Communications at Vero. “As consumers become more aware of the potential pitfalls of influencer marketing, brands will need to work harder to build trust with their target audience by partnering with influencers who share their values rather than just those with the most followers. Influencers who want to keep their followers’ trust should reserve the same scrutiny for brands that approach them. In doing so, both can deliver genuine, relatable content that resonates with people.”
As a leading Southeast Asia-based PR and digital marketing agency, Vero has gained extensive experience in facilitating collaborations between brands and influencers. Through their work, Vero has identified several key takeaways that can help brands and influencers to establish productive partnerships while maintaining authenticity, reliability, and transparency with their audiences.
Key takeaways for brands:
Co-create content with influencers that resonates with your target audience — and theirs.
Trust creators to understand their audiences and communicate in their own style.
Collaborate with influencers to share the brand’s values and beliefs to ensure that the brand’s messages are aligned and credible.
Key takeaways for influencers:
Be authentic by creating content that aligns with your values and beliefs and working with brands that share them.
Have a sustainable content marketing strategy to gain the trust of your audience.
Use your platform to promote responsible consumption habits and educate your audience about the impacts of their purchasing decisions. Misleading your audience could invite de-influencers to call you out.
Be transparent about your partnerships and affiliations to build trust among your audience and demonstrate your commitment to responsible and ethical practices.
Recently, Vero developed an influencer marketing stack called InFluent, where we focus on helping brands and influencers better connect with the hearts and minds of their audiences. InFluent is all about building meaningful relationships and speaking the language of influencers and communities by immersing ourselves in their culture to gain a deep understanding of their values, beliefs, and aspirations. At the core of this endeavor are data-driven techniques to match brands with the right influencers, foster genuine influencer relationships, and accurately measure success. We believe this enhanced approach to influencer marketing will effectively amplify brand presence and empower authentic conversations while recognizing shifting consumer behaviors.
While de-influencing may seem like a mere social media trend, it could in fact represent a genuine cultural shift towards more mindful and sustainable consumption. Rather than try to counter or stamp it out, brands and influencers must adapt by prioritizing authenticity, transparency, and responsible practices. To stay relevant and build lasting relationships with their audiences, both brands and influencers should create content that aligns with their values, collaborate with partners that share their beliefs, and use their platforms to promote responsible consumption.
With standardized guidelines and tools designed specifically for brands and creators across Southeast Asia, InFluent can help brands to build meaningful and lasting relationships with audiences while also promoting responsible consumption. Take advantage of this opportunity to innovate and create a win-win scenario for both brands and creators.
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