Since the word “influencer” began taking on a new meaning in the mid-2010s, it has been linked to an image of a young woman peddling shady teas to promote her currency on social media.
If it was ever accurate, it is increasingly less accurate. Influencers – a vast church of content creators, internet celebrities and anyone who benefits from online attention – are an increasingly powerful cultural force, an “influence economy” expected to be worth $24 billion by 2025.
In her new book, Breaking the Internet: In Pursuit of Impact, digital strategist Olivia Yallop argues that we have to take this phenomenon seriously before it completely takes over our culture. What influencers do – even what the effect is – remains a slippery concept, and sometimes even those in business don’t answer the headline.
“I would be wary of anyone who describes themselves as wanting to get a job as an influencer,” Dominic Smalls, founder of Gleam Futures, the first influencer management agency, told Yallop in 2018. . “
For this reason, defining the boundaries of what an effect is and the ways in which it is important is not an easy task, especially given the amount of information about a topic and the sheer speed with which it is added. You might be wondering how long Yallop’s book will stay current with the development of the attention economy. But the rapid pace of change justifies this comprehensive and clear description of how the Earth is now.
Breaking the Internet works well to define the sprawling criteria of influence. Each chapter looks at a specific aspect of life as an online content creator – from gaining followers to monetizing it. The accounts of mothers, who focus their online profiles on their children, and influencer Caroline Calloway, who became famous online for sharing the ups and downs of her life, make reading particularly uncomfortable.
Yallop is a trusted guide, balancing her experience in a digital agency (where she worked as a go-between for influencers and brands) with the critical distance needed for someone with just a few hundred followers on Instagram.
Its analysis benefits from being based on rigorous real-world reporting, as Yallop participates in a bootcamp on influencers, attends ‘stans’ (fans) and snarkers (conversely) meetings and visits the ‘creator’s home’, where teens live to produce content for TikTok.
Also upgrades are the glossary and careful attention to attribution and references break the internet To a comprehensive account of a phenomenon that seems more likely to explode than disappear.
“If Yallop is right that we’ve all become influential, what does that mean for who we are to each other?”
The book argues against “viewing influencers as an isolated industry” and prefers instead to rely on their intrinsic and rapidly rising importance in culture, politics, and social trends.
“In the same way that we don’t talk about the ‘internet industry,’ we will someday not talk about the ‘influencer industry,’ either,” Yallop wrote. “Soon, all companies will become media companies, everyone will be a brand, and everything will be subject to the principles of influencers.”
In terms of influence as a cultural force to be reckoned with, breaking the internet is compelling and compelling. What goes down is making the risks of a growing influencer economy seem real to those of us on the fringes who keep the online world turning with our attention.
We may perceive ourselves as passive, as part of our “audience” or “followers” — but if Yallop is right that we’ve all become influencers, what does that mean for who we are to each other?
As always with writing about technology, the challenge is to focus on the human element. As comprehensive as Yallop is in portraying the world of influencers, characters and platforms, after a while, the constant stream of larger-than-life avatars, fleeting controversies, and large numbers of views, likes and followers become somewhat numb – as opposed to the experience of being online itself. .