TikTok is a force when it comes to searching for viral products. Social media influencers have shown they have the power to impact consumers purchasing decisions. But there is a new trend that some influencers doing exactly the opposite.
More than half of people who are on TikTok — 52% — use it to get information about products, according to GWI, a marketing research company. One digital research firm projects that 33 million U.S. users will make a purchase on TikTok this year. This does not count the millions of purchases made in stores that are driven by influencers.
“It’s amazing how an individual can go from not even knowing a product exists to being aware of it, to then clicking on it through a link and making a purchase within minutes,” said David Gerzof Richard, CEO of Big Fish PR. “There’s a reason they’re called influencers. They’re highly influential and they can change and focus consumer behavior.”
The new trend of deinfluencing, which popped up a few months ago, has people using their platforms to tell people what not to buy.
Social media app TikTok says people under 18 will have usage time limits of one hour per day, but opponents of the platform say the measure does not go far enough.
The hashtag #deinfluencing has racked up more than 250 million views on TikTok. Content creators are now urging consumers to think twice about what they’re buying, and who they can trust.
Richard believes it was driven by the cost of living and the impacts of inflation: “A deinfluencer is in fact an influencer who is being transparent about the products they are reviewing on their social media channels to their audiences.”
Paige Pritchards is a spending coach who doles out financial advice on TikTok.
“It’s just kind of telling people … if your life doesn’t look like this, you’re actually the majority, not the minority. Most influencers get a lot of the stuff that they are showing to you for free,” she said.
Pritchards helps women overcome social media pressure to impulse shop and overspend. She’s all for deinfluencing, but says social media users need to be skeptical.
“A lot of influencers are really, like, hopping on the trends and not so much because they have your best interests at heart, but honestly, just because they want the pick and the views and follows,” Pritchards said.
Andrew Smith, an associate professor of marketing at Suffolk University, said the deinfluencing trend may make social media influencers seem more genuine.
“If you are exclusively providing a one-sided argument, if everything you talk about is something that is promotional, that doesn’t come across as being credible,” Smith said.
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But beware, the experts said — deinfluencers can still monetize their messages and manipulate you.
“They’re building credibility for themselves by saying, ‘Don’t buy this, buy this instead.’ The ‘this instead’ is still they, as an influencer, telling you what to buy,” Richard said.
Some advice for consumers: slow down and make sure you’re well informed about a product before making any purchase.
Smith said it’s worthwhile to be “looking at online reviews, looking at social media sites, looking at paid providers of reviews like Consumer Reports, like Wirecutter, especially for large purchases.”
If you ever stumble across a video promoting certain products on TikTok, look at the description box. TikTok requires any sponsored content to have an ad disclaimer in the video. And if you are ever directed to a link in a video to buy a product, that content creator is most likely getting some kind of kick back.