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Monday, June 10, 2024

Over-influenced: Influencer marketing and its effects

Overconsumption finds a new home in the eyes of influencers 


By CLAIRE SCHAD — cfschad@ucdavis.edu


I’ll admit that I scroll through TikTok and Instagram more than I probably should. The constant influx of new information and content is addicting. And, like millions of others, I follow and consume content from influencers.

The carefully curated Instagram posts and TikTok videos that make their way onto my feeds each day are practically unavoidable. Even if I don’t follow certain influencers, they seem to pop up on my screen through advertisements or collaborations with a familiar brand.

However, it seems like recently, a lot of these creators’ content has gotten increasingly unrelatable. Whether it’s luxury brand trips or over-the-top clothing hauls, I feel like many influencers are oblivious to the world around them — the same world that has allowed them to gain a following.  

Earlier this year, I came across a video posted by Darcy McQueeney, a senior at the University of Alabama who boasts 1.3 million followers on TikTok. In the video, she was standing in her bedroom next to a stack of Amazon boxes that is taller than her. A few days prior she had posted that she had just placed a $1,000 Amazon order for her upcoming spring break trip, assuring her followers that she had a “haul coming tomorrow.”

In the video, she opens each package and comments on how “obsessed” she is with the purchase. And don’t worry, you can find all of the items she opened on her Amazon storefront linked in her bio, where she earns commissions for the items people purchase. 

This video racked up over 650 thousand views in less than 48 hours and presumably earned her considerable commissions through Amazon. 

When I first saw this video, I felt like the content was out of touch. What college student has thousands of dollars to spend on items for spring break alone? 

These wildly expensive hauls from Amazon and other retailers are common on McQueeney’s TikTok page, where she has an entire playlist of videos titled “stuff I bought” and another called “PR hauls” which showcase all the items she’s bought or brands have gifted her. Whether you like her content or not, it is a clear example of overconsumption. 

McQueeney isn’t alone in posting these absurd videos; many other influencers do it as well. Alix Earle, a senior at the University of Miami and breakout influencer with 4.8 million followers on TikTok, frequently posts videos showing off her recent purchases and directing viewers to her Amazon storefront as well. This platform has been so popular that Amazon has even held brand trips and creator summits to promote its “Amazon Influencer Program.” 

However, Earle and many other influencers also post sponsored content where they are paid for a video or post that includes a brand’s item. It is estimated that Earle charges anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000 for each sponsored post that she uploads. This is baffling. A family of five could immediately move over the national poverty line with the earnings from one Instagram post or TikTok video. 

While some may say that the emergence of influencer marketing is just the latest attempt at relevance in the ever-changing advertising world, I think it is more than that. These influencers’ power is sometimes inconceivable, as they can easily interact with their viewers while simultaneously promoting a product. 

Additionally, influencers are a relatively new phenomenon, and many of them started out just like us, with no prior experience with fame. This allows companies such as Amazon to capitalize on influencers’ unique closeness with their followers, a task that is difficult with more mainstream celebrities.

We as consumers must realize the unique position that influencers are in — they have the opportunity to make an absurd amount of money in an emerging field. The content that we consume online is coming from an industry that largely prioritizes profits over ethics

So next time you are feeling pressured to buy something that you saw promoted on social media, think twice about it. Is the person who is promoting it profiting off of your purchase or their promotion? Could this monetary incentive cloud their judgment? If so, maybe do some of your own research and see if the item is really worth buying. After all, I think a lot of people would say they liked a product if it meant they would receive a check for $40,000. 


Written by: Claire Schad — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.