Influencers and content creators are two buzzwords that have taken over both Gen Z and Millenial vocabularies.
With the rise of social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and most recently TikTok, everyday people can start making their own content, and subsequently, become influencers.
Influencers have been around for as long as we know it. From aristocratic England, to socialites in the 1920s and ’30s, to the “It Girls” of the early 2000s. An influencer, by definition, is a person or thing that influences another. From what we wear, to what we buy, society as a whole has been impacted by the people that influence us.
New age influencers, though, are a bit different. People who are most notable on social media, the ones with a following, the ones with a personality, can instantly become influencers.
Charli D’Amelio, a 17-year-old girl, is a great example of a modern-day influencer. She gained over 100 million followers on the music-based app TikTok, just by simply making dance videos. Now she is one of the most influential people for young Gen Z.
Oh, and a millionaire.
The thing is, with aristocrats, and socialites, and “It Girls,” you don’t necessarily need to be talented – you just have to be at the right place, right time.
And with modern-day influencers, you just have to make content.
That is where the line between influencers and content creators, gets blurry.
Will Buck, a senior at Castleton University, explained the difference.
“The new wave of influencer culture has been one of the main sources of how to act, what to do,” he said. “Someone who makes art, such as an artist, tends to put their heart into their work, but often finds it under-appreciated just because they don’t have that influencer platform.”
When asked who his favorite content creator or influencer is, he responded with Instagram users @/liljupiter and @/aplasticplant.
“Their genre is ‘archive page,’” Buck said. “Their posts aren’t limited to one subject. I mean, they do tend to post about pop culture, but broadly.”
Julie Leppo, a junior, says her favorite content creator is Matt Bernstein, or @/mattxiv on Instagram. She explained that his stuff is super educational about a lot of causes that she’s passionate about.
Leppo said that this new wave of influencer culture is really interesting, because it’s insane to see how someone can have so much power over a bunch of people for just existing.
“I think it’s cool how a whole new thing was invented, and these people just exist and are able to gather a mass following,” she said. “I also think that influencer culture is so toxic at the same time, because one person just has to endorse a product and flocks of people are going to buy it, or do anything to try to be an influencer.”
But she also said some are really educational and use their platform not for ads to get money, but for genuinely good and educational content.
“I think that [content creators and influencers] are pretty close to being the same, but as shitty as it sounds, I feel like content creators put out more work, and kinda just made things for them and their passions, while influencers kinda just do whatever they want and try to get others to follow what they’re doing,” said Leppo.
Jacob Gonzales is a senior who also creates his own videos, from days in the life of a D3 football player, to how helping write COVID Chronicles, a book written by Dave Blow’s 2020 Media Writing class that he said changed his life.
His favorite content creator or influencer is FaZe Teeqo, because he is a “genuine dude” that always brings good vibes and energy everywhere he goes.
Gonzales said being able to create content that people enjoy is the main reason he started creating content.
“Getting to see people’s reactions to the content I make is my favorite part,” he said. “I’ve started to get a lot better at seeing people’s reaction throughout the years, but I’ve grown to love that part – to always learn how I can do better for the next video I make.”
He said that as a content creator himself, this new wave of influencer culture allows influencers more outlets for their audiences to support them.
“Some influencers use this for good, like promoting products their fan base may like,” Gonzales said. “Sadly, you see a lot more of these influencers use it as another paycheck to get more money for themselves.”
He also said that the negativity surrounding influencer culture is well deserved because the negatives outweigh the positives.
“I think there is a lot of work to make this a perfect and safe environment for everyone to be a part of,” he said. “Creators need to really understand what they promote to their fan base and make sure they do their research in part of promoting a product. Creating that loyalty with their audience will affect how they will be perceived by other creators and companies that may want to work with them in the future.”
For people like Gonzales, creating content to subsequently be an influencer has become a goal. But to get there, they have to put out really good content. And then, the line doesn’t blur anymore.
“Becoming an influencer has always been one thing I’ve always wanted to do with my life,” he explained. “As of right now, I haven’t reached that level yet. It’s a work in progress to find time to think about ideas and content that I would enjoy making. I don’t think I’ve fully found my identity when it comes to making content that defines who I am either. Making vlogs has been my one way of trying to show my creativity in making enjoyable and unique content.”