The reality of life as an influencer

Here's the inside scoop on the reality of life as an influencer, and how to talk to your teen if they aspire to be one.

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Written by Cyber Expert:

Yasmin London

Former Police Officer

Influencers live the high life. They seem to spend their days shopping for designer brands, eating out at expensive restaurants, flying first class, and staying in luxury hotels for free. Right? Not quite.

Living life as an influencer may seem like an attractive prospect to young people. They're lured by the picture-perfect – and seemingly effortless – lifestyles portrayed by others on social media and by the thought of fast, easy money, luxury, and fame. Who can blame them? Judging by the way most influencers illustrate themselves online, their lives appear exciting, idealistic, and abundant; however, as most of us with some experience under our belts know, what people see on social media is rarely a reality. 

While it’s true that some influencers do find social media fame and fortune, they are in the minority. For most, it’s long hours (it can take six to seven hours of editing for every hour of published video content) and hard work for rewards that are far from lucrative. The competition amongst influencers is huge, and creators must keep their content fresh and unique to stay current and retain their followers. Even those who have found a good niche are often forced to keep upping the ante, producing content that is more and more sensational to ensure they stand out from the crowd.

Despite the lavish lifestyle depicted on their socials, many influencers still live at home with their parents or in shared houses – a far cry from luxury – and most have a second job, necessary to pay the bills. In addition, there’s still a significant amount of ambiguity around exactly what influencers are compensated for and how they receive payment. Factors like the size of their following, the number of posts and product reviews they create, the number of likes they receive, and many other aspects play a role in determining compensation for their ’influence,’ but without adequate transparency, they leave themselves wide open to exploitation.

Behind the scenes of content creation

Influencers monetize themselves through content creation and promotion, so to stand any chance of success, it is essential for them to be professional and fully committed to their content at all times, particularly if they are new and wanting to grow their following. For most, a single piece requires hours of work behind the scenes. Before the content is even created, it must be thoroughly researched. Influencers creating for a company or brand must ensure they understand the brand's voice and are fully prepped to cover the brand's deliverable requirements. This not only includes their personal presentation (makeup, hair, and clothing), but the correct setting, lighting, and (in the case of video content) dialogue.

Multiple test scenes or images will usually need to be taken to ensure that setup, lighting, and (if applicable) product placement is perfect before the final shoot. Additionally, different formats are often required for different social platforms, requiring several content versions of the same piece. And then comes the editing. And the posting. And the seemingly endless promotion. 

Despite all this, one of the main challenges – probably not obvious to those who aren’t already living as an influencer – is the struggle to determine when to turn ‘influencer mode’ off at the end of the day. For their own well-being, it’s vital that influencers learn to do this so they can be themselves outside of their role as a lifestyle or product promoter.

The cost of influencer content creation

Aside from the considerable monetary cost – think expensive recording, lighting and editing equipment, props, travel and location expenses, hair and beauty treatments – that can quickly add up, there are other social and wellbeing costs that are less obvious. Many influencers report burnout and mental health issues from the constant pressure to maintain a picture-perfect image. As a public figure, they are 'working' even when they aren't working, and it can become an unrealistic lifestyle that is almost impossible to escape.

Influencers lay themselves bare in a public forum when they post content online. They will come up against hatred and online bullying, and it is essential they learn coping strategies to help them deal with the negative impacts caused by this kind of behavior – a very tall order for the young teens and tweens who decide to embark on the influencer journey.

The tide is turning (slowly)

Social media feeds are filled with influencer content intended to showcase perfection, wealth, and prestige, to give followers something to desire; however, slowly but surely, this trend is beginning to reverse. Rather than aspiring to the unrealistic influencer lifestyle, savvy consumers – tired of seeing carefully contrived, picture-perfect content that's impossible to recreate in real life – are searching for influencers who promote authenticity and genuine connection instead. Influencers are starting to fight the expectation of social media deception, some even going as far as to post side-by-side comparisons of influencer expectation versus reality to their social media feed.

What to say to your teen if they want to be an influencer

If your teen is showing an interest in becoming an influencer, it is essential you talk to them openly and honestly about what would be involved. Here are our top nine tips to include in your conversation:

1. Explain to them the difference between influencer expectation and reality.

2. Ensure they realise that despite what they see on social media, being an influencer is hard work and most of what is portrayed online is not real.

3. If they are still keen, encourage them to find a niche that interests them, where they can give genuine value to their followers. Explain that they should never change to suit their followers or to gain more ‘likes’.

4. Explain the importance of fitting their content creation around their life, not the other way around.

5. Ensure they know that if their content creation is no longer bringing them joy, it's time for a change.

6. Encourage your teen to talk to you if they ever feel uncomfortable with anything anyone has posted on their feed.

7. Ensure you have access to their social media platforms so you can keep an eye on what they’re posting.

8. Have a conversation around their financial expectations and their understanding of how they will achieve these prospects.

Further reading

Instagram Reels: What parents should know

Instagram has released its answer to social media sensation, TikTok. The new feature, called Reels, is a short-form viral video feature that is focussed on getting involved in global video trends.

Introducing a child to social media

Milestones are something that parents monitor and diligently check off from the moment their child is born, so what happens when their teenager is ready for a social media account?

Reporting incidents on social media

If your child is experiencing abuse or unwanted contact online, there are a number of in-platform controls available to help manage the situation.

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