We’ve all heard the unironically annoying buzzword “Instagram Influencer” over the past few years. But what exactly is an Influencer? First, let’s look at some quick facts: 

The social media platform has become an absolute behemoth, with one billion people around the world using Instagram every month, and 500 million people using Instagram stories every day. With at least 200 million people on Instagram visiting at least one business profile on a daily basis, there is a huge opportunity for marketing here. Enter, Instagram Influencers. By definition, Influencers are Instagram users who have an established credibility and a large audience; who can persuade others to purchase products or services by virtue of their trustworthiness, authenticity, and desirability. Let’s face it, FOMO has never been more relevant than today. We see someone we admire on social media using a specific product, and we want it for ourselves. A makeup product. Protein powder. A vitamin-subscription box. Shoes. A new must-go restaurant. It’s likely you’ve seen posts advertising similar things in your Insta feed lately. Some of the top Celebrity Instagram Influencers in 2019 include: Cristiano Ronaldo – @cristiano 196M followers (Ronaldo, by the way, reportedly makes more money being an influencer on Instagram than he does playing soccer for Juventus), Ariana Grande – @arianagrande 171M followers, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – @therock 167M followers. Top Instagrammers who became influential on social media in various niches include: Huda Kattan -@hudabeauty 40.6M followers (makeup artist/blogger), Cameron Dallas – @camerondallas 21.6M followers (internet personality), and Alexis Ren @alexisren 13.6M followers (Instagram model). 

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram Page

It’s obvious that celebrities like The Rock or Ariana Grande wouldn’t feel a huge blow if Instagram was suddenly gone, or if they were to be booted off the platform. But what happens to Instagram Influencers who get banned from social media after their fame was built on it? 

The Rock, in case you’re unfamiliar…

In this past week, Kaylen Ward, an LA-based Instagram Model was banned from Instagram after selling nude photos and videos online to raise money for those affected by the catastrophic Australian bushfires. “I’m sending nudes to every person who donates at least $10 to any one of these fundraisers for the wildfires in Australia,” Ms Ward tweeted. “Every $10 you donate = one nude picture from me to your DM. You must send me confirmation that you donated.” Ms Ward, who has called herself the Naked Philanthropist on social media, announced two days later that Instagram had disabled her account along with a screenshot of the message she received from the platform. Ms Ward previously had around 50K followers on Instagram and said her account was suspended as she had violated its guidelines by posting “sexually aggressive content”. Ward reportedly raised over $500,000 before being banned from Instagram – and was scrambling to get in touch with her followers following the ban. Don’t get me wrong – I applaud Miss Ward’s valiant efforts to bring aid to those in need. But in its present form, Instagram’s community standard prohibits nudity. Rather than relying on a social media platform to get her message across, and breaking Instagram’s community standard in the process, Ward could have been using it as a valuable tool to direct her followers to her own website. In interviews, she also mentioned having to hire several assistants to read DM’s and verify donations. Using her own outlet would have made this process smoother, no doubt. 

Kaylen Ward

In April 2019, controversial Instagram Influencer Jessy Taylor was kicked off Instagram after internet trolls repeatedly reported her account as spam. After her account was deleted by Instagram, Taylor uploaded a tearful video titled “Stop reporting my Instagram account” to her YouTube channel after seeing that Instagram had removed her account where she had more than 100K followers. In the video, Taylor says “I am in LA because of this. I’m in LA because I want to be on Instagram,” Taylor says in the video. “I’m nothing without my following. I am nothing without my following.” Yikes.

Influencer Jessy Taylor crying over the prospect of a 9-5 job

Luckily for Taylor, Instagram reinstated her account a week later. But what if it hadn’t? What if, instead of depending on Instagram for her livelihood, she used it as a marketing tool to direct followers and consumers to her own platform? It seems like common sense – so why isn’t it common practice? 

Thoughts? 

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Published by Merilyn McGonigal

Merilyn McGonigal (alas, no relation to the professor) is a writer and editor based in South Florida. She has crafted content for small businesses, large non-profits, tech startups, and everything in between. Writer by day and reader by night, she loathes to talk about herself in the third person but can be persuaded to do so from time to time. So it goes. Find her on Instagram here @MerilynMcg

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