Deinfluencing: what the heck happened to it?

We all remember the deinfluencer movement that took over social media in early 2023. 

The panic of influencers sharing truthful opinions of brands, pushing back on constant product promotion, and calling out overconsumption. 

At the time it felt like it might have been the end of authentic paid partnerships! 

Over a year on and, while this trend has seen a decline, it’s not out of the spotlight quite yet…

Deinfluencing set out to call out brands that went against their audience’s values, but in reality it was just an extension of cancel culture. It’s not just about brands; it’s about celebrities, influencers, and even massive cultural events like the Met Gala.

We first saw deinfluencing peak in Feb 2023, with 93% sudden growth. Despite the panic and talk, it saw a pretty steady decline, but interestingly, it still rears its head with occasional growth – we saw this in October 2023, with an 11% rise in views.

In more recent history, we saw a small comeback during the Met Gala, and while we note this drop, we have to ask ourselves the question: will it come back, and if it does, does it even matter?

Helen Clow from Brainlabs talks us through her thoughts and what brands should do to navigate the deinfluencer movement.

Do we even care anymore?

As we’ve seen, deinfluencing isn’t dead. Over a year after the initial trend, we’re still seeing examples of deinfluencing. 

Helen says, “People say they don’t want to be ‘influenced’ but their behavior says differently. They continue to go to socials and, well, be influenced! What is interesting is the potential shift in the expectations on how brands and influencers show up on social, rather than what they’re promoting.”

Brands such as Stanley, Dyson, and Skims have all been impacted by the deinfluencing movement at some time or another.

The Stanley Cup was called out as unsustainable and “not worth the money”, while others turned against the Dyson Airwrap, calling it out as a fad that “doesn’t work for their hair”. And Kim Kardashian’s shapewear brand Skims came under fire (as it has many times over the past year), with the most recent backlash over allegedly deceptive advertising and greenwashing.

So, how have these controversies affected the brands?

In short, not a lot…

While the immediate effect may temporarily sway consumers’ decisions, the honest truth is there isn’t much noticeable long-term impact. Why? Because they’ve continued to lean into the benefits of influencer, not run away from it.

The Stanley Cup and the Dyson Airwrap remain popular products, and there’s no sign of either slowing down. Instead of giving in to deinfluencing, Stanley doubled down on brand partnerships and focused on social-first positioning to reach their target audience. They’ve continued to diversify their products and smashed competitors’ sales, seeing a 154% increase in followers across social in the lead-up to Christmas.

Skims has faced many controversies, but the $4 billion company isn’t going anywhere, and is a true example of bouncing back.

Our Bytesights analysis tool shows a turbulent story for the brand with a massive drop of engagement with their content in November 2023 (when Greenpeace criticized Kardashian after she released a video claiming sustainability to promote her new lingerie item). 

But they have come back thanks to their timely and culturally relevant brand partnerships. 

With the Euros in full force, they selected Jude Bellingham to show off their men’s range – and within 20 days, this piece of content has become their best-performing ever! With most viewed (1.6M), most liked (256.3K), most shared (71.8K), and most engaged (21%).

They also tapped into the moment Brigderton was having on social, and the empowering conversations around body type by bringing in the star of the show, Nicola Coughlan. She was featured in their latest campaign, stating she was “honored” to be part of it, driving 300K views.

So yes, brands are getting called out and being impacted by “deinfluencing” but with the right approach, talent selection, and frankly persistence, they can easily bring the narrative back on their side.

And it’s not just brands that are being affected

As our data shows, the spike in online conversations about deinfluencing in May 2024 was associated with this year’s Met Gala and Israel’s attack on the Rafah border in Gaza. Thousands of TikTok users participated in #Blockout2024, which aimed to block celebrities attending the Met Gala who had not spoken out about the humanitarian crisis in Palestine.

Many called out comparisons to the real-life Hunger Games as they denounced major talent for being out of touch.

One of the biggest scandals involved Haley Kalil. The influencer filmed herself in a lavish gown and headdress, lip-syncing to audio containing Marie Antoinette’s alleged quote “Let them eat cake.” The video was met with severe backlash, and users criticized Haley for being “tone-deaf” to the current climate. 

And she lost followers – over 100,000 of them – taking her below the 10M mark she celebrated only weeks before.

Why is this interesting? Because less than TWO months later, she gained them all back. Did her apology video where she claims to be “not informed enough” to discuss the conflict in Palestine work, or did people simply forget? 

So, does it even matter?

In a nutshell, yes. But the crucial thing to note is that this shouldn’t stop you taking risks and putting yourself out there. 

Worried about making a mistake? 

Helen says, “Deinfluencing happens especially at moments where we see a real lack of authenticity or understanding about real people and real consumers.”

Brands should only work with influencers that align with their goals and values and genuinely use their products. People can spot fakeness, and an influencer who’s not invested in your brand will do more harm than good. Our Bytesights 2.0 tool allows us to tap into the influencer market and handpick creators that match each brand.

If brands sell high-quality products and work with the right influencers, then they shouldn’t be deinfluenced, right? In theory, yes, but you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and even one negative review can cause a deinfluencing effect.

If brands do find themselves victims of deinfluencing, they should follow these steps so as not to be derailed.

  1. Apologize if necessary

If a brand is deinfluenced by something it has done wrong, it needs to genuinely apologize. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s how brands handle them that resonates with their audience. Customers will be more understanding if a brand shows they’re truly sorry and have learned from their error.

  1. Take feedback

See this as an opportunity for improvement. Brands should meet their customers’ expectations of quality, pricing, and overall consumer experience. If customers notice problems with any of these things, brands should take their feedback on board and respond accordingly – it may even inform how you create your next piece of content. 

  1. Keep going

Brands may feel like they should take a step back, but the opposite is true. They need to show their audience they’re not going anywhere. Brands should learn from their mistakes (if applicable) and move on. 

  1. Don’t panic

The worst thing a brand can do is panic and rush their response. Brands need to handle the situation carefully and sensitively. A crisis management plan will help brands do this while adhering to protocols.

Don’t let deinfluencing stop your strategies

Deinfluencing isn’t as scary as it sounds. 

Brands should trust their instincts and not be afraid to be bold. Consumers change their opinions constantly, and brands that are canceled one minute can be people’s favorite the next.

But to minimize fears of deinfluencing, we can help. Our proprietary tech tools and creative expertise can guide brands through any deinfluencing movement, how to build High-Performance influencer campaigns, and how to recover if the worst happens. 

Helen says, “Trust your instinct. If it’s wrong it’s a scary thing to have your brand potentially called out for it, but you’re going to bounce back. We can help you trust your instinct – we can use data that qualifies it.”

Talk to us today and be bold without the added risk.