Photograph by Jeff Minton for The New Yorker
The collapsing distance between brand and life has led to social-media influencing, in which advertisers pay for endorsements from people with strong online followings. Celebrity endorsements aren’t new, of course, but influencer marketing expands the category of “celebrity” to include teen-age fashionistas, drone racers, and particularly photogenic dogs. Advertisers work with people like Smith and King precisely because they’re not famous in the traditional sense. They’re appealing to brands because they have such a strong emotional connection with their followers. Krishna Subramanian, the co-founder of captiv8, a company that has helped Where’s My Office Now connect with advertisers, said, “Their followers know what they’re doing day in and day out.” Accounts with between fifty thousand and two hundred thousand followers are considered “microinfluencers,” and tend to have higher engagement rates—that is, a larger share of their followers like, favorite, or comment on their posts—than those with millions of followers. “It’s very niche-focussed,” Subramanian said. “That’s really interesting to an advertiser who wants to promote something very specific to that audience.” One study estimated that the social-media-influencer market was worth five hundred million dollars in 2015; the market is expected to increase to at least five billion dollars by 2020.