Social Influencers

June 18, 2021 • Volume 31, Issue 22
Can they continue to shape American culture?
By Nancy Uddin


Social influencers are extending their reach in American society, filling roles ranging from entrepreneur to muse to thought leader. They are posting on Instagram and other social media to promote products — and to spur conversations on everything from the Black Lives Matter movement to fashion. The influencer industry is seeing explosive growth and is expected to be worth nearly $15 billion by 2022, while top influencers with followings of 1 million or more can receive $250,000 per post. But critics say the industry faces numerous challenges, including its reliance on algorithms, which can perpetuate bias; skepticism about corporations' commitment to racial and cultural diversity in a moment of racial reckoning; and ethical issues resulting from some influencers inflating the number of their followers. One study found that influencers' use of fake followers cost brands $1.3 billion in 2019. Some influencers, in turn, complain that companies are exploiting them and censoring their postings while micromanaging their activities. Many are unionizing.

Photo of fashion model and influencer Luka Sabbat in New York City on September 24, 2020. (Getty Images/Gotham/Contributor)
Luka Sabbat, a 23-year-old fashion model with 2.6 million Instagram followers, gets paid to endorse jeans, bottled water and other products. He is part of a growing trend of influencers who use their social media popularity to affect the purchasing decisions of their followers. (Getty Images/Gotham/Contributor)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 13, 2022  Branding
Jun. 18, 2021  Social Influencers
Mar. 20, 2015  Online Dating
Jan. 23, 2004  Advertising Overload
Mar. 14, 1997  Alcohol Advertising
Sep. 13, 1991  Advertising Under Attack
Nov. 23, 1984  Direct Marketing Boom
Sep. 04, 1981  Trends in Advertising
May 21, 1969  Advertising in a Consumer Society
Aug. 25, 1965  Youth Market
Nov. 21, 1956  Advertising Controls
Sep. 24, 1951  Controls Over Advertising
Mar. 08, 1938  Regulation of Advertising
Civil Rights Movement
Consumer Behavior
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
General Social Trends
Internet and Social Media
Movies and Entertainment
Popular Culture
Print Media
Protest Movements
Radio and Television
Telecommunications and Wireless Technologies