The Rise of the Instagram Influencer: A Modern-Day Career

Apr 22, 2022 — Markerly Editorial Team, 4 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Two decades ago, when you asked children what they wanted to be when they grew up, you would expect some of the classical answers like “astronaut,” “adventurer,” “ballerina,” “doctor,” etc. Nowadays, you can expect many responses to revolve around social media stardom. 

According to MediaKix and their referenced study from The Sun, about one-third of children and teens aspire to be popular YouTubers one day. Additionally, a survey conducted by Bloomberg showed that a whopping 86% of young people in America would like to be social media influencers.

Though this number is initially shocking, there’s a good reason for it—the rise of social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram (the main topic of this article). As these platforms grew in size, everyday people had the opportunity to become celebrities in their own right, and they got to be creative while doing so.

Keep reading to learn more about why and how ordinary people on Instagram became influential. Along with that, we will talk about influencer culture and its impact on the future of the workplace.

2010: The Beginning of Instagram 

Initially, Instagram—then named Burbn—was something like a photo-editing app that allowed users to post photos. Back when it first launched, most people used it to post pictures from their vacations or the food they ate, and no one knew exactly what it would turn into in a matter of years.

In 2012, after Facebook bought the platform for $1 billion, it saw a rapid increase in use and popularity. From there, it became more and more of an influencer platform. The people behind Facebook saw an opportunity to use Instagram (an inherently visual social media) as a marketing platform. 

In 2016, Instagram got an update that allowed social media users to share stories (something that previously happened only on Snapchat). The platform later added the opportunity to do “live streams,” and now we see it utilizing a TikTok-esque format with the new Reels feature.

The key to marketing on Instagram is quality, and the opportunities are endless, which helped give birth to the social media influencer career. 

The Rise of the Instagram Influencer

Influencers have always existed, even before television and the internet. In the middle ages, they used to be people of wealth and royals who had the power to influence decisions and change the world. Then after the industrial revolution, we started seeing the first bits of modern pop culture—people who became famous for what they did and what they believed in. 

In the 20th century, the era of Hollywood began, and we saw the creation of icons such as Marilyn Monroe and actor/Marlboro man Christian Haren. The 60s and the 70s were the times of the rockstars; people who protested against governments, sang memorable anthems, and died too young. 

In the 80s and 90s, we saw the emergence of superstar athletes and models as the likes of Michael Jordan and Naomi Campbell took over pop culture. Then, we got to the “reality TV” age where people like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton became superstars due to their personalities and entertaining lifestyles. And now, we’re in the time of influencers (especially micro- and nano-influencers) where anyone can become famous and influence others. 

Starting a Career in Influencer Marketing 

Perhaps the first social media that established a connection between brands and influencers was YouTube. Still, Instagram took partnerships to the next level and made the career of an influencer a reality for many. 

Once companies discovered how powerful a marketing tool Instagram can be, they began using it more and more frequently—first by creating their accounts, sharing Instagram posts and videos, launching ad campaigns, etc., and then through influencers and sponsored content.

Nowadays, if you have a niche that you create content for, you can position yourself as a nano-influencer and potentially start getting brand deals and partnerships. Thus a user’s “hobby” quickly becomes a “side hustle.” If someone then decides to dedicate themself to it by creating more content with high quality and more focus on working with the algorithms, their follower count may grow, thus giving them more opportunities for brand deals. 

This is how many famous influencers got where they are—they started doing something they love (Ex: make-up tutorials, fashion hauls, camping vlogs, commentary). Then, with some consistency, they gained followers and had the opportunity to do sponsored posts on Instagram with various brands.

How Influencer Careers Are Changing

However, this sort of “accidental fame” is perhaps a thing of the past. Currently, most people don’t become influencers by chance; many aspiring influencers take courses and try to prepare themselves for internet fame. Some may work with a marketing agency or already have experience in the industry that gives them the needed knowledge on managing social media in the best way possible. 

Instagram made people believe that they could earn money from investing in the platform and channeling their creativity and passion. Now, people see the same type of potential in TikTok—the chance to become a recognizable face by sharing your opinions or being entertaining. The rise of Instagram, and thus influencers on Instagram, genuinely changed the way people view careers. 

Why Do People Want to Become Influencers? 

As previously mentioned, many young adults now state that they want to have a career as an influencer, and it’s easy to understand why. First of all, creating content online is fun and allows for creative freedom. Many people post things online without ever getting paid.

Additionally, the influencer lifestyle looks a lot more exciting and flexible than sitting at a desk and working a 9-5 in an office. There are so many positives that come with being an influencer, and with the rapid digitalization of the world, this job isn’t just a passing fancy anymore but a viable career choice.

Try Influencer Marketing!

Whether you’re an influencer looking to partner with a brand you’re passionate about or a brand looking to find an influencer that’s genuinely part of the team, Markerly can help. Contact us to get started on your influencer marketing journey!

Want more content like this?

Influencers, brands and marketing are our passions, and sharing our perspective is our way of starting a conversation! We'd love to have you follow us, and more importantly, engage with us. Sign up to be the first to hear what's making an impression on us!