Looks like Instagram influencers are losing their influence

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A couple of years ago, two very funny friends of mine, Matt Leary and Ian Hunt, got some attention after winning a string of contests for their mini-series called Insta Boyz. The premise survived on disemboweling the glib teen to early twenties cheese turds that procure a lucrative living posting “candid “ typically shirtless shots of them in a Chipotle bathroom with a caption like: Live hard, Play hardest, RIP Doris Roberts.”

Because my friend group, in particular, gets a lot of mileage out of bitter cynicism, watching new installments of Insta Boyz quickly evolved into a ritual, until one day Hunt and Leary abruptly stopped making them. It only occurred to me to ask what happened about a week ago.  Besides moving on to other equally funny things, the guys they were parodying gradually faded into extinction. Satirizing social media-influencers becomes a lot harder when one of the real ones posts a video of himself dabbing on a cadaver for the gram. The next dumb thing is almost certainly around the corner, but for now, it seems like people are catching an unpleasant whiff of the current one. 


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A recent research study conducted by Mobile Marketer reports that engagement rates on sponsored posts have dropped from 4% back in early 2016 to 2.4% in 2019. The cream of the crop, Travel Influencers, have been experiencing a sharp median decline of engagement rates to the tune of 3.5% a year. For whatever reason, influencers with the highest number of followers are suffering the highest instances of engagement loss.

Eugénie Grey, who is an LA and New York City-based influencer, had this to say to Refinery 29 in response to the purported decline in influencer influence. “It’s hard. During my really busy times, I can sometimes be posting three, four, five sponsored posts in a row,” Grey explained “The key is to keep it real whenever possible, both publicly and to your followers in private. I enjoy talking to my followers over DM whenever I can; they know I’m a real, normal person just trying to pay the bills!”

To be clear, people aren’t using the app itself any less. As of 2019, Instagram houses more than one billion users. The vapid sovereign is simply losing grip of its impact, thanks to a combination of wild missteps on behalf its most popular stars, and a concerted effort on behalf of its developers to change the impression that their app is little more than an insipid cauldron of vanity and beer snobs. 

The study found a notable decline in influence across all industries, including beauty, fashion, food, and lifestyle over the past year. The curmudgeon in me would love to believe that this is due to a growing antipathy for all this stuff, but the study’s authors propose a much more plausible explanation. They wager users are simply sick of being staffed by sponsored posts and advertisements which sees them scroll past them. So if influencers can find it in their hearts to post pictures of their asparagus and pecks for free, they might have a shot at winning their audience back.