Social Media Influencers: A Skin-Deep Industry?

An advertisement by local micro-influencers agency, Faves Asia infuriated many for a few reasons but none of the offences were as great as misrepresenting the influencer industry as an easy road to fame and wealth. The video was taken off within days after overwhelming lash backs.

Here’s a spoof by Clicktnetwork of the much criticised ad. Although not the exact same replica, it does help to paint the gruesome picture:

While one spends hours incessantly scrolling through social media gawking at the picture perfect lush lifestyles of influencers, it can be hard to refrain from thinking that a pretty face and a little bit of luck are all it takes to be  one of them.  However, the reality is often much more different from our wishful imaginations. So, what are the three fundamental qualities of a successful social media influencer?


If you want to be known for everything, you’ll be known for nothing.- Dan Schawbel

To move beyond merely being a forgettable pretty face on Instagram, one needs to establish a distinctive online persona. This requires the influencer to have a clear sense of direction in content creation and to establish a reputation as the reference point for a single or a collection of interests. As such, a true influencer also creates waves and not merely ride on fads with generic content. This requires an intricate balance between being avant-garde and attuning to current market preferences.


On top of looking good and being creative, it’s important to have an amicable personality. When it comes to monetising the influence, influencers need to establish a healthy working relationship with brands and businesses. With the mushrooming of micro-influencers, it’s a buyer’s market. Given the same extent of influence, businesses and agencies will always go with those easier to work with over divas. It’s commonsensical to have common courtesy, especially when an influencer’s key criteria is to be likeable.


However, being likeable does not mean being a yes-man or yes-woman all the time. For social media influencers who means business, while paying the bills is crucial, integrity should be the constant guiding principle. Influencers must genuinely like a brand and its products to be able to ‘sell’ it and for the followers to ‘buy’ the post and to buy the product. A mismatch of brands and influencers at best does not lead to significant sales and at worst, debase the reputation and following of the influencer. Camille has even turned down a contract worth £100,000 from fashion giant, Macy’s because the clothes were not of her style and not what her followers would appreciate[i].

Wielding significant persuasiveness in their domains, influencers may choose to monetize the influence, use it to further causes close to their hearts or simply remain as a gratis entertainer. To be able to choose among these options, an individual must meet the necessary pre-requisites. While appearance does help to pave the way, true influencers are certainly more than genetics and cosmetics.

Still not convinced? Watch this video of an already famous Buzzfeed personality trying to increase his followers with help from some seasoned Instagrammers. Imagine the amount of effort required by someone who doesn’t already have a regular segment on a popular Youtube channel as a springboard.

[i] Vogue, What Is An Influencer, Mar 2017.

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