A note on deinfluencing: Where does influencer marketing go from here?

Deinfluencing is the hot buzzword on every social media marketer’s mind.
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A note on deinfluencing: Where does influencer marketing go from here?

Deinfluencing is the hot buzzword on every social media marketer’s mind. Potentially one of the biggest markers of brewing disruption within the influencer marketing industry, the #deinfluencing hashtag has skyrocketed out of nowhere, to nearly 117M views.

A term coined by influencers themselves, deinfluencing describes a genre of content where we tell others what not to buy. It’s a remedy for overconsumption and vapid consumerism. A call to arms for people to stop buying viral products just because they’re viral.

Deinfluencers tell us that Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Flawless Filter ‘guarantees breakouts’, the Dyson Airwrap is ‘lowkey a flop’ and Olaplex smells bad. But it wasn’t really that long ago that the very same girlies were telling us the only way to be “that girl” was to have either an Olaplex bun or Matilda Djerf’s perfect Dyson Airwrapped 70s bangs. How can the tide possibly change that quickly?

The first deinfluencers were probably trying to do something genuinely good. A platform now saturated with branded ads, sponsored posts, paid partnerships, fast fashion hauls and promotions of landfill-bound products from TikTok Shop, you can’t escape consumerism on this silly little app. The original deinfluencers wanted to bring a breath of fresh air in the shape of real, cutting truths and some far-from-sponcon-style authenticity. But as soon as deinfluencing started to trend, it shifted from a genuine attempt to shift the needle, to just another buzzword to adopt to flirt with the algorithm.

To engage with the trend and win the resulting visibility, influencers are now deinfluencing by advising against certain products but suggesting alternatives to said items in the same breath. And so a movement initiated to reduce mindless consumerism, and drive more sustainable purchasing habits, just ends up encouraging people to buy more at a lower price point. Essentially, the integrity of deinfluencing has been lost, a victim of its own viral success.

The thing that strikes me most, is that while these creators adopt deinfluencing with an air of faux-authenticity and rebellion, deinfluencing doesn’t feel any different to influencing. Both are devoid of nuance. Telling your whole audience that a product is amazing is exactly the same as telling your whole audience that a product is garbage. Until this nuance, subjectivity and balance is acknowledged and adopted, it’s safe to say we’re nowhere near genuine disinfluence.

But for all of its contradictions, the rise of the deinfluencing phenomenon does highlight a real hunger and need in influencer marketing. We need more purpose-driven influencers. These are people that stay true to their beliefs and values, are unshaken by trends and keep integrity at the heart of all they do.

Influencer marketing cannot evolve into something meaningful until we see widespread adoption of new ways of thinking, planning and doing. Creators, influencers and agencies must feel comfortable to interrogate brands, their products, their values and their briefs at an early stage, establishing a true creative, strategic and moral alignment between all parties.

This further cements why UGC and community-led, peer-to-peer marketing will continue to rise, as brands will lean on superfans who advocate not for hype, virality or clout, but for genuine love of the offering.

As the creator economy continues to boom and fragment, creators truly have the power to shape a more purposeful, responsible era of affiliate marketing and sponsored content. Because if we were more selective when it comes to who and what we created for in the first place, we wouldn’t now be telling everyone to throw out their Olaplex.