Are Influencers Ruining Instagram?

“Not another product post. Please, for the love.”

This is what goes through my head when I’m scrolling through Instagram lately. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the ads. The ads are interesting, highly-targeted, and show me things I might actually be interested in (thank you, marketers). I might be one of the few people who is obsessed with ads, but hey, no apologies. What has been grating on me are influencer posts promoting every product under the sun and when #spon content outweights what I wanted to follow you for in the first place.

I get it. Everyone needs to make money and influencers are being paid to be a brand. Where I think the breakdown for me is when the community they spent months and years building gets bombarded with #spon #ad #partner posts in favor of actual content. You know…the content the community was built around? I’m fine with some product promo–as a PR I get it and I think it’s interesting to see what brands are doing with 1-1 outreach. However, it’s the responsibility of the influencer to choose partnerships (in moderation!) that enhance their brand, contribute to their message, and add value for their followers. And not to forsake their organic, unpaid, content.

I feel like I’m watching the metaphorical death of my favorite influencers and instead they re-emerge as product pimps.

And for the brands, it’s really not a great investment if their influencers are partners with everyone. Where is the brand advantage to them? If they partner with a spa, a retail brand, restaurants, and *god forbid* sugar bear hair vitamins, their value as an influencer is eroded. Influencer value is intrinsically tied to their exclusivity. The wider the availability, the more partners they take one, the less value they present to any given brand. Actually, I’ll amend this a bit. It’s more of a steep bell curve. An influencer needs initial, low-level, partnerships to build credibility and work out contracting kinks. However, as mid-grade partnerships develop and their value increases, there becomes a tipping point of sorts where the partnership value begins to erode because their influence in diluted in too many areas. It’s an imprecise art of balancing content and building value.

As a side note that I think deserves it’s own mention, I have an ethical issue with influencers who take on health products to promo, including supplements and vitamins. Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical marketing is dangerous and many of these products are not vetted by the FDA or any other overseeing body. Influencers are not coming from a place of bad intentions necessarily, but they are also not coming from a place of knowledge where they could make an informed recommendation. The influencers are not dieticians or medical doctors (for the most part) and have no business recommending something that could have real, negative, adverse side effects. Recommending a cute pair of flats is one thing, giving away supplements that will impact the health of someone, whatever they may be for, is another.

All in all, I would just like to see some more thoughtful consideration of influencers for the communities they’ve spent time building. Am I alone in this? Tweet me your thoughts! @vandernickr