Why Instagram Influencers Are Being Swapped Out for More Authentic TikTok Creators

Though they were idolized 6 months ago, audiences don’t relate to their lavish lifestyles anymore

tiktok logo with hands pulling it in difference directions
During quarantine, viewers are feeling they can relate more to a TikTok influencer while Instagram influencers are receiving more criticism. Photo Illustration: Trent Joaquin; Sources: Instagram, TikTok, Getty Images

There is so much speculation about how brands and influencer marketing will transform (or won’t), but I’m more curious as to how we have already begun to evolve as human beings during this time. To what extent have our values and belief systems changed? How has this impacted our relationship with brands and influencers?

In many ways, there’s been a loss of innocence. Generations that have never been touched by catastrophe are suddenly learning to grow up. With this maturity comes new perspectives, values and expectations. There will continue to be a complete revaluation of what matters and what is worth our time or expenditure.

The success of brands and the influencers they engage will depend on the extent to which they can understand and anticipate these new perspectives and shifting attitudes. Many will need to reevaluate the role they play in our lives and the stories they tell.

Although the internet has democratized many things, social media has always been about projecting the life that you want to live. But what happens when that life is not even remotely attainable? We’ll continue to aspire to a life well lived, but the allure of Instagram-worthy experiences diminishes when you have no realistic way of leaving your apartment or are tightening your travel budget. Aspiration and fantasy must be plausibly within reach or consumers will lose interest.

The unfortunate reality is that we’re experiencing collective grief right now. The loss of human life, social relationships, jobs and the life we once knew. We’re looking for hope and positivity, but we also want to know that the person on the other side understands and empathizes with what we’re all going through. There was so much appreciation for Lana Del Ray’s Instagram post about highlighting her hair with lemons, a hilarious window into our not so distant future as we navigate our way through quarantine.

We’re not looking for any other reasons to feel sorry for ourselves right now. We have no interest in seeing our boss’ penthouse apartment casually styled over Zoom with a Le Corbusier lounge that costs more than our annual rent. Likewise, we don’t want to see our favorite influencer head to toe in designer loungewear, taking a perfectly cooked quiche from the oven as her kids wait patiently on the kitchen bench.

Kristin Cavallari’s extended stay in the Bahamas, which she openly shared on Instagram, was a stark contrast to what life in quarantine looks like for most of us. The public backlash was quick and severe. What may have been seen as Instagram porn only months ago now feels obnoxiously tone deaf to reality. How dare they use this moment for shameless self-promotion? Don’t even get me started on David Geffen’s yacht.

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On the other hand, influencers and celebrities on TikTok are connecting with us more deeply than ever before because they seem to understand our current headspace. The platform provides an equally playful and entertaining diversion, while offering a more realistic view into our quarantined lives. From Charli D’Amelio, the 16-year-old who has amassed over 55 million followers by sharing silly videos of her dancing in sweats in her bedroom, to the McFarlands, a family of five that shares videos of them goofing off while they’re stuck at home.

The influencers of TikTok are unafraid to show up authentically. The shared and humble experience we’re all having helps to alleviate our loneliness and forges a stronger emotional connection with the influencer on the other side of the camera. We trust them because we believe them.

For brands and the social storytellers they engage, it will be crucial to spend time getting reacquainted with your audience. They may not be the same people they were only months ago. Then build trust through empathetic and humble social storytelling where you can ensure that any aspirational content feels achievable.

Above all else, be real and relatable. As human beings, we’re constantly seeking validation of our own experience.

At the end of the day, we all just want to be seen and acknowledged. It’s why we have social media in the first place.


@makefakelove Alanna Lynch is the CEO of The New York Times experience agency Fake Love.
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