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De-Influencing is Still Influencing

March 15, 2023
By Liz Hawks

In recent weeks, the term de-influencing has started trending online, particularly in TikTok. “De-influencing” refers to social media users telling their followers what they shouldn’t buy, in their opinions, as a means to counter overconsumption. The trend is particularly common in the beauty sector but also around consumer products that have commercially benefitted from the virality of social media endorsement and exposure by influencers. But the irony of the trend is it highlights a behavior that still uses influence at the center: creators swaying people – be that to not buy something, or really to buy this other thing instead.

De-influencing makes the assumption that social media influencers are shilling products and services they may not even like or use themselves in highly curated and over-stylized ways that go against the authenticity influencers have built their businesses on for years. But in actuality, we know the reason influence works (and is only growing in driving the global economy) is because people follow peers and personalities they trust. Given the “de-influencing” trend actually still uses “influence” at its center (I’ll “de-influence” you to buy that while inadvertently – or advertently – influencing you to buy this other thing instead), this trend is not actually about the opposite of influencing or even about being anti-influencer. Rather, it attempts to promote affordability as an antidote to over-consumption. At its source, it admits influencer marketing is almost too powerful because people are so inclined to purchase whatever an influencer tells them to.

Additionally, the more often an influencer or creator shares a “real” or even critical review of a product or service he/she/they has tried, the more credibility points they accumulate with their followers, and the more authenticity they amass, thus the more influence they have. From this perspective, it’s not only the opposite of “anti-influencer,” it’s actually helping fuel the industry.

Brands need to not shy away from using influence or be afraid of this trend, but rather take it as a reminder to ensure the way they discover and filter their influencers goes deeper than quantitative reach metrics, and into qualitative resonance/authenticity vetting. And they must ensure that they brief, collaborate and direct their influencers in a way that maintains the influencer’s own voice and creative approach in the final content. Authenticity above everything.