Trending on Twitter: The Influencer

Gone are the days of throwing on devil horns or a splash of fake blood for Halloween. Costumes are now more about pop culture references and Insta-worthy get ups, and with their newly announced Halloween attire, Urban Outfitters may just have tapped into one of the hottest social media trends of them all: The Influencer. For $59 their costume includes leggings, a crop top, trainers, sunglasses and a blonde wig, providing you with a Kim Kardashian-esque look, ideal for social media fame.

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While the less-than-traditional costume caused a lot of outrage and mockery on social media over the weekend, Urban Outfitters perhaps deserve some credit for recognising that influencer culture has never been more prominent. Last year, AdWeek estimated the influencer market to be worth $2 billion, which is expected to rise to $10 billion by 2020. Brands are re-centring their digital strategies around influencers. Whilst millennial audiences are sceptical of traditional advertisements, they seem more willing to try something recommended by people they admire. And it’s not surprising that brands are dishing out upwards of £10,000 for one sponsored post, given that a tweet from Kylie Jenner in February asking “soo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me” reportedly led to Snapchat losing more than $1 billion of its market value.

It’s not just celebrities who are considered influencers. Social media has given rise to a new breed of public figures – those who earn a living solely through sponsored posts about their ‘perfect’ lives. It’s easy to be caught up in influencer marketing – external validation is enticing, but many critics argue that they’re harmfully projecting an image of a life that no one can truly attain. The apparent ‘candid’ photos actually take hours to set up and numerous influencers have admitted to paying for their large numbers of likes and followers. Last month a British blogger, Scarlett London, was widely mocked for a post in collaboration with Listerine, which showed a glimpse of her ‘morning routine’. Social media users noticed that a closer look revealed the “pancakes” were in fact a stack of tortilla wraps, and her “bottomless” mug of tea didn’t actually have any tea in it.

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Barclaycard recently reported that just under 10% of 35-44 year olds buy clothes online with no intentions of keeping them. They instead wear them once to post on Instagram for their #OOTD (Outfit of the Day) before returning them. A newly opened penthouse in New York also made waves on social media this month for its special design that aims to give influencers the best possible lighting for their Insta snaps. Designed by creative influencer marketing agency, Village Marketing, it comes fully furnished with “all of the elements for a successful lifestyle shoot including a sprawling roof deck”. You’re bound to see it pop up on your feed in the near future, but whether you’ll realise it’s actually a glorified photography studio is another matter.

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While it’s hard to blame someone for accepting the offer of a free trip around the world or box of luxury beauty products in return for a few Insta snaps, the falsity of influencer culture and the misplaced emphasis it puts on physical beauty might make Urban Outfitters’ untraditional Halloween costume quite terrifying after all.

-Beth Davies

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