Influencers must rebrand themselves during COVID-19
According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 6 in 10 teenagers prefer advice from influencers over celebrities. Combining this statistic with the fact that millions of people are enduring health and lifestyle hardships from COVID-19 leads one to hope that influencers would promote safe, pandemic-friendly lifestyle choice.
Unfortunately, many internet stars are not social distancing and wearing masks. Since they are role models to Generation Z, social media influencers have a societal responsibility to enforce CDC protocols.
Influencers, with the help of their agents, are essentially their own brands. They are responsible for creating an image and character across their social media platforms to influence others with their lifestyle or promote products to their followers. According to Business Insider, global spending on influencer marketing is expected to reach $15 billion by 2022. Obviously, these online social butterflies are thriving because they have the ability to influence the opinions and behaviors of others. They are trusted and respected by millions and should, therefore, inform and influence their publics responsibly.
As of Nov. 4, 2020, CDC announced 9.35 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 and 231,988 Americans have died. With the death toll only rising, there is no excuse for public figures to avoid responsibility and consider rebranding themselves as a way to adapt to our current times.
Jake Paul, a YouTube content creator notorious for his pranks, controversial character and reckless lifestyle, hosted a large party at his mansion in July, as seen in this Twitter video, acting as though he had never heard of the word pandemic. None of the attendees wore a mask or social distanced. Angering the community of Calabasas and those who take selfless measures to protect themselves and others, Paul not only allowed for COVID-19 to spread among his guests, but he influenced this thoughtless mentality upon Generation Z, as the video gathered nearly a million views.
Another influencer that doesn’t practice COVID-19 health regulations includes TikTok star, Addison Rae. Setting a precedent for her careless behavior throughout the pandemic, Rae tweeted "social distancing doesn't work with extremely social people like myself" in March, 2020. Since then, Rae has posted hanging out with Kardashians, collaborated with numerous influencers at her house - David Dobrik, Bryce Hall, Dixie and Charli D’Amelio to name a few - and hosted her birthday party this past October. Again, influencing the public in the wrong way.
Some may argue that influencers should live their lives in the way they see fit, and that viewers can make their own decisions according to their personal values. However, with this unprecedented pandemic, influencers have an ethical and humanitarian responsibility to set a good example. This goes for everyone, not just influencers. However, the behavior of public figures has the potential to impact the actions of millions.
In a time where our human existence is like a game with nature, we are only as strong as our weakest player. Influencers have the opportunity and potential to strengthen one of our weakest players (impressionable youth). When they choose to act irresponsibly, their influence can be deadly. They must reconsider their behavior and rebrand their image. If our role models can’t find the will to social distance and wear a mask, how can we?
By Gabriela Romero
Gabriela, a third-year college student, studies Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations at San Diego State University. Paired with her PR major, she is completing a minor in Rhetoric and Writing Studies. Romero is Public Relations Student Society of America Vice President for the SDSU chapter and a Professional Studies and Fine Arts Marketing and Communications Student Assistant. Additionally, Romero is Running Club at SDSU’s Director of Communications and a copy editor for MidWave Magazine. After college, Romero aspires to work in internal communications or social media for a brand or agency that is issue-driven to make the world a better place.