Content creators are the fastest growing type of small business worldwide. Today, over 50 million people consider themselves 'influencers' on social media.
According to YPulse – a youth research organisation in the United States – over 72% of Generation Z wants to become online celebrities.
Nowadays, getting famous on Instagram or TikTok is the ticket to wealth and fame. According to a Harris poll, more kids dream of becoming a YouTuber than an astronaut.
Generation Z kids do not want traditional careers in engineering, medicine, consulting, and teaching. Becoming viral on TikTok through outrageous flamboyance can make you a millionaire. “Don’t need no education, don’t need no thought control”.
Intellectuals, social conservatives and cultural pessimists commonly decry this trend of 'superficial consumerism'. “Yet another dissolute younger generation in the making”, they sniff.
Yet, pop culture meets a need. No one is forcing the youthful masses to follow ‘influencers’. Following them takes time, and buying the products they endorse swallows money.
This is not new. Teenagers have been buying ‘brands’ for decades. They having been indulging and experimenting in all sorts of things that affront their elders, probably from time immemorial.
So the followers of the influencers must be getting a benefit. In part, it will be a social group thing. I get that.
Moreover, ‘influencing’ must be a competitive and risky business. Entry is free. Anyone can be outrageous and flambuoyant – until the euphoria fades. One tweak that misses its mark could destroy months or years of assiduous cultivating of one’s followers.
Take Daniel LaBelle for example. He started a physical comedy channel on TikTok last year, and now has over 23 million followers. Podcaster Joe Rogan has to entertain 200 million people monthly on Spotify.
Imagine waking up every morning wondering what you can do next to titivate such followers, without blowing everything. Who wants that pressure?
Many influencers will crash and burn, just as pop musicians have for decades.
But pop music endures because it entertains. So far influencers are passing that test.