The Rise of Teenage Influencers
April 23, 2019
“With YouTube and Instagram, I get to show you guys a lot of parts of my life, but there’s some parts that I don’t show you. I thought it would be cool to have you guys fill in the blanks,” said Minnetonka High School Sophomore and social media influencer McKella Tiziani in the introduction of her YouTube video reacting to viewer assumptions on her personality, dislikes, and lifestyle. Assumptions ranged from Tiziani being nice and easy to talk with to mean and judgy. At one point, a commenter added: “I love you, you’re my idol.”
“Having a following is both a blessing and a curse,” said Tiziani. “Being able to reach an audience and to be able to share a story that I have, makes me feel like my opinion is valid and that I have a group of people to talk to.”
Tiziani have over 30,000 followers on Instagram along with a YouTube video that boasts
almost 300,000 views.
“I have lost some friends because of it,” said Tiziani. “It can create distance with people that don’t support social media. At the same time, it also shows which of your friends are there for you and will support you.”
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the usage of the word “influencer” doubled each month in 2017 compared to statistics in 2015—five years ago. The term in the social media sense was fully defined in the dictionary in 2016.
The rise of social media giants can be attributed to the fact that humans are social animals, according to Psychology Teacher Kevin Johnson.
“The one time in life where this really plays a lot of precedent starts in adolescence and starts to tail off once you get into your mid to late 20s. It’s a medium that speaks to a concern that people have about themselves—where they fit and their identity,” said Johnson.
According to Johnson, getting notifications and likes from social media acts as a reward, affecting pleasure regions of the brain acting in a similar way to sex and drugs. The uncertainty social media provides—whether a post will be liked by a large audience or the volume of engagement—is what makes engaging in platforms such as Instagram more effective.
“‘Maybe’ is much more addictive,” said Johnson. “It’s not actually seeing the notification from your phone, it’s the anticipation of it that affects the brain.”
The pleasure gained from social media can easily become pain inflicted, according to Johnson. Another area of the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex, sends the same pain signals as physical pain when an individual feels left out or ostracized, often through social
media; this allows other people’s images maintained online to have a powerful hold on an individual’s actions and emotions.
“Everyone’s seeing what someone manipulates people to see; it gives us the illusion of how everyone else is doing and that you’re inferior compared to their life. It doesn’t give an accurate portrayal—you can tell people that and they can admit that it’s not real, but it still plays a role,” said Johnson.
According to Tiziani, she doesn’t put a lot of thought into what she posts in terms of how she looks, but does have to take into account the influence her profile may have on her life as well as others.
“I definitely am extremely careful with the things I post,” said Tiziani. “For example, I can’t take pictures or videos outside my house or show my school. I also have to be very careful with sharing my opinions to keep peace and respectability with my audience.”
By 2020, the influencer market is expected to be a $10 billion industry, according to Ad Week. Paid influencer sponsorships have become a large aspect of social media, where rates depend on how many followers an individual has.
“For influencers starting out, you might do collaborations in return for some free products for one or two Instagram posts and a story. Once you get a bigger following, you can have a rate that you’re paid per Instagram post,” said Tiziani.
Tiziani has done sponsorships with companies such as Brandy Melville and Billabong; she has also received free products from skincare brands Bliss and ZitSticka which she broadcasts on her Instagram.
“I think teenage influencers are a really good way to start a good work ethic at a young age,” said Tiziani. “It requires a lot of patience because it’s not easy and you won’t see results right away.”
According to Tiziani, brands with either comment on a post or email through Instagram to initiate conversation, or the influencer will email a brand that they are interested in collaborating with.
“Even before social media, somebody has found that there was this crafting going on where some people were creating the style—whether it’s clothing, attitude or language which was exemplified with young people,” said Johnson. “It then creates the demand for the clothing or another product and so forth circuitously.”
According to Johnson, companies being able to have their desired target market advertise to others in the same age group for them is much more effective compared to overt advertisements.
“The bottom line is young people are the ones who change the language. For example, the use of words are passed down from old people to young people, it goes from young people to even younger people,” said Johnson. “It is very possible that we’re being manipulated to fit the profit margins of the corporate world.”