Influencer PR: The Rise of De-Influencers & How to Adapt?




Influencer PR

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of people who are actively trying to reduce their exposure to social media influencers, known as de-influencers. While influencer PR & marketing has been a popular tactic for brands to reach their target audience, de-influencers are actively avoiding or even blocking social media influencers. What does this mean for organisations who want to use influencer PR to enhance their brand awareness? And, how can PR and Comms teams tackle the rise in de-influencer content and protect their reputation? 

What are de-influencers? 

De-influencers are people who intentionally reduce their exposure to social media influencers or encourage others to do so. They may choose to unfollow or block influencers on social media platforms, avoid sponsored content, or simply ignore influencer recommendations. When they have a large social media presence, they can also actively encourage consumers not to engage with a brand that use Influencer PR or marketing tactics – this can undoubtably be bad for brand perception and reach. Some de-influencers may be motivated by a desire to reduce their screen time or protect their mental health, while others may simply be sceptical of influencer PR. 

And this is not new… 

De-influencers of some kind have been present within the social landscape since the evolution of social media, as part of the advocate vs detractor dynamic. Some people like what you do, others do not – both will talk about it.  

In the early 2000s, the authority of both fans and critics was measured by their organic reach and we lived in a new world where Word of Mouth was championed as the new marketing paradigm.  

However organic reach never achieved its potential as a marketing tool and has been on a steep downward trajectory (Hootsuite). As word of mouth has diminished, paid influencers have become the more important channel, offering marketers access to large audiences and more control over the messages associated with their brands. The growth of paid influencers has also contributed to celebrity overtaking the idea of a shared, community-based identity. The reversal of this trend  is a key motivation for a new generation of de-influencers. 

There have been examples of influencers being paid to trash a rival brand, which we can call the ‘weaponization of influence’, so negative messaging by an influencer is not new.  

The difference now is that de-influencers are seeking a return to the community values of early social networking. There is an irony here – the same infrastructure created to support paid influencers on Instagram, TikTok, and similar platforms is being appropriated by people set on a return to organic conversation as a counterpoint to paid campaigns. From the early 2000s, to 2023 and back again. We have come full circle.” – 

Philip Lynch (Senior Vice President, Insights & Consultancy at Onclusive)

Why has the number of de-influencers grown? 

There are several reasons why the number of de-influencer content has grown in recent years: 

  1. Lack of authenticity: As influencer PR has become more mainstream, some influencers have been accused of lacking authenticity or promoting products that they don’t actually use or believe in. This has led some consumers to become disillusioned with influencers and their recommendations. 
  2. Overexposure: With the rise of social media, consumers are constantly bombarded with branded content, including sponsored posts from influencers. This has led to a sense of “advertising fatigue” among some consumers, who may be more likely to tune out or avoid influencer content altogether. 
  3. Shift in values: Younger generations, such as Gen Z, are more focused on authenticity, transparency, and social responsibility. As a result, they may be less likely to trust influencers who promote products solely for financial gain. 

What does this mean for brands and PR professionals? 

For brands and PR professionals, the rise of de-influencers presents both a challenge and an opportunity. On the one hand, it may be more difficult to reach certain audiences through influencer PR. On the other hand, brands that are able to authentically connect with consumers and build trust are more likely to be successful in the long run. 

Here are some tips for brands and PR professionals to navigate the rise of de-influencers: 

  • Focus on authenticity 

In order to build trust with consumers, brands should focus on being authentic and transparent in their PR efforts. This means working with influencers who genuinely use and believe in their products and being upfront about any sponsored content. 

Social listening can help you find these niche influencers based on specific searches and account analysis. 

  • Diversify your PR strategy

While influencer PR can be effective, it’s important for brands to diversify the content in their comms strategy to reach different audiences and attract varied influencers. This may include investing in new video content, or finding a contact database that includes a wider range of influencers open to PR partnerships. 

  • Prioritise social responsibility

Younger generations are more likely to support brands that prioritise social responsibility and sustainability. Brands that can authentically communicate their values and commitments in these areas are more likely to connect with consumers and build loyalty.  

Tip – A good way of communicating your brands sustainability and community initiatives is to work alongside a partner in the sustainability industry. This can help to avoid any claims of greenwashing or virtue signalling. Check out our webinar on communicating sustainability initiatives effectively here. 

The rise of de-influencer content presents a challenge for brands and PR professionals, but also an opportunity to build trust and authenticity in their comms efforts. By focusing on authenticity and diversifying their PR strategy, brands can connect with consumers in a meaningful way and build long-term relationships. 

Check out our whitepaper ‘Social Media the PR Way: Enhance Your Strategy with Social Listening‘.