Social media influencers are the press for a new millenium

In the last decade, a new landscape has emerged in the world of social media. Platforms became less about “selfies” and “likes” and more about how brands and influencers could monetize off of this kind of exposure.

If I Ruled the World

Over the years, as we continue to watch the number of Instagram users grow, the influencer’s role in a digital world has become harder to define. In 2018, it was reported that the social media platform had over a billion users. Today, there are reports of young children who might’ve once had ambitions of becoming doctors, lawyers, or even actors, now openly discussing their dreams of becoming YouTubers.

The desire for fame and fortune seems to be more prevalent than ever with the idea that success could be just a click away. Celebrity status used to be an honor that could only be determined by Hollywood’s elite star makers. Now, all you need is a platform and a loyal following to turn your dreams into a reality.

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But, just how “real” is an influencer’s reach? Such as other businesses have discovered, there is money to be made on these platforms. The business of buying and selling fake followers on social media can be a profitable one. While millions of phony accounts have been purged to date, there are still plenty of companies out there offering influencers an inexpensive status upgrade.

Are all of those followers, comments, and likes worth it?

Most Important Thing in Life is Learning How to Fall

While the overall success of the influencer comes down to the ability to generate conversation, drive engagement, and set cultural trends, numbers seem to be less important today. As it turns out, bigger is not always better.

The relationships built between a brand and an influencer has opened up social platforms to the profitability of marketing. Forget celebrity endorsements; influencer marketing allows brands to target a niche community directly through an influencer’s content. Pay is often based on the number of followers one has. If your followers are bought, you are essentially breaking a circle of trust. That can be a hard decline to come back from.

As we now know, popularity does not equate to being influential. Since fake profiles and bots have sullied a few reputations, the idea of the micro-influencer is taking over the need for the macro-influencer. Micro-influencers have anywhere between 1,000 to 1,000,000 followers and tend to generate more engagement. As macro-influencers are becoming synonymous with the ad agencies themselves, the micro-influencer emerges as the next trendsetter in this equation.

The Future Does Not Fit in the Containers of the Past

As we embrace the changes of the digital age, marketing is not the only area that influencers are being called on for their “expertise.” With print jobs becoming obsolete, a blurred line has developed between being a journalist and being an influencer.

Early on, bloggers began to challenge the very concept of journalism. People were discovering that a degree was no longer needed to become a member of the press. Journalists still work for reputable outlets. They report facts and strive to tell the objective truth. But, bloggers, on the other hand, have the freedom to be more subjective. They offer opinions and seemingly have no problem displaying any bias about any subject.

As social platforms are now being utilized as our primary source for news gathering, members of the press and influencers have become intertwined. Even the PR industry is having a hard time figuring things out. New media allows anyone to carry a spotlight. Journalists might have the experience, having majored in their respective field, but influencers have worked hard to cultivate their network. Both journalists and influencers have something different to offer when it comes to reporting on any given topic. Thanks to the digital age we live in now, these two professions have begun to overlap.

We the People

Citizen journalism adds another layer to this conundrum. In the digital world, news can be produced in many forms. Anyone can use pictures, videos, or words to generate their content and utilize the platforms we have to share it with the masses. This leads to a more significant concern. Whether you are sourcing your information from a trending story, or on the ground capturing it, every reporter must do their due diligence before asserting something as truth. It’s not only how we gather our information that has been revolutionized, but it’s who we collect it from that has changed.

The longtime dream of working in a newsroom has now been replaced with the reality of a journalist contributing to a professional news site from a remote location. Writers, hosts, videographers, and photographers all fall under the umbrella of content creators. Today, high viewership and readership can sometimes get press access over longstanding credible outlets whose numbers are dwindling.

Someone who pens articles for Variety is likely to share a red carpet with major network news channels as well as digital media outlets who have worked their way up, garnering thousands of subscribers. If you’re a reporter and you’re covering an event, all you have to do is take a look around to see the impact that influencers have had on the industry. Social media sensations are in a league of their own. They are the celebrity and the press. It’s the digital age we live in that allows for this kind of crossover in a way that wasn’t possible 10 or 20 years ago.

Our Liberty Depends on Freedom of the Press

Bloggers and influencers have been challenging social norms for years now, and have effectively been making an impact. Writers, hosts, models, celebrities, even members of the press have had to realize that we are now in uncharted territory. Things such as press trips are no longer exclusive to members of the press.

In a time when the free press is constantly under attack, it’s important to separate your sources. Know who you are getting your information from and what they bring to the table. Traditionally, the purpose of the press is to draw attention to something. While journalists have their own way of doing that, influencers do, too.

Is taking a selfie and posting it more beneficial than writing a great story or getting an on-camera interview?  I guess the answer you get depends on whom you ask.

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Sari Cohen is a journalist based in the Greater L.A. Area. She began her career in the entertainment industry as a stand-up comedy writer/performer and over the years has developed scripts for both the stage and screen. She currently covers music and live entertainment for AXS, reviews movies for Hollywood First Look Features and writes for InLove Magazine. She also pens funny stuff for popular sites such as Cracked and Screen Rant. You can often find her at concerts or on a red carpet somewhere, talking to someone about something. From on-the-scene reporting to exclusive interviews, she tackles every topic from music, movies and television, to fashion, lifestyle and politics. You can check out more on Twitter at @ask_sari or follow her adventures on Instagram under @thesavvyscribbler.