With so-called 'influencers' in the news recently, an anonymous social media executive confesses to Digiday just what contributed to the rise of the phenomenon and the somewhat startling realities of the new ecosystem.

While it may come as no surprise to the general public that the 'influencer' ecosystem is going through some turmoil as of late, it is somewhat surprising that it came about in the first place. According to the interview, it took brands until 2014 to realize what most of us saw much earlier - social media is addictive and engrossing for much of the general public, and it's here to stay.

Instead of a handful of TV commercials to make each year, brands and agencies realized that they needed to greatly increase the sheer volume of their content creation in a never-ending quest for ever more 'impressions' via their social media channels. So, what easier way to get your product out there than to simply pay someone to post your product in front of their hundreds of thousands of followers? Thus, the influencer was born.

'We have no idea what to pay them.'

What started as a simple $500 investment for someone to 'show up and take some photos' has ballooned into paying '$300,000 for a few photographs because the CEO's kid liked someone.' It's pretty absurd, with the executive going on to admit 'we have no idea what to pay them.' Although it appears there's more of a vetting process being developed at some agencies, you still get influencers whose entire pitch is 'I want to take a car and pick it up in London and drive it around Europe, so give me $100,000.'

So it's no surprise that the interview concludes on a bleak note regarding the future for Instagram superstars. The unnamed executive predicts influencers will start to disappear as brands recognize that the value isn't there. 'Just because photos look good and have 200,000 followers means nothing.' While it lasts, it sure seems like a pretty sweet gig.

Via: digiday.com