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The Influencer Economy Hurtles Toward Its First Recession

The Influencer Economy Hurtles Toward Its First Recession

THE FIRST SIGNS of distress came not with panic, but positivity. “Hope you all are feeling safe and at peace hunkered down with your family,” one influencer wrote, paired with a selfie featuring her adorable children in pajamas. Another posted a photo of her “mini oasis,” a selection of well-kempt houseplants, along with the caption #stayhome. The new coronavirus provided an opportunity to reflect, to reset, to use code RACHEL for 30 percent off on home fitness classes. The influencers carried on in loungewear, sipping whipped coffee, modeling a sense of ease in the face of calamity.

Privately, though, some influencers have watched with a growing sense of dread as the world collapses, taking their earning potential with it. Brand deals have dried up; sponsored posts have been delayed. The great reckoning is unlikely to topple the influencer industry—by now, it’s already too big—but the business of influence is going to change. “If you think about the way an economic recession works, some companies survive and some companies don’t,” says Angela Seits, senior director of consumer insights and engagement strategy at the digital agency PMG. “I think that could be the same thing that happens in the influencer industry.