Influencer with 2 Million Followers Can’t Sell 36 T-Shirts
By social media influencer standards, Arii is above average. She has over 2 million followers on Instagram and that number’s increasing by the day. Her profile is familiar. She wears clothes by her endorsers and tags them in photos for supposed exposure, all in exchange for livelihood.
Yet, when she tried to sell a range of T-shirts, she failed. In fact, she pleaded with her followers in a now-deleted post for support, explaining how the launch of her own brand had ultimately folded after she was unable to sell more than 36 T-shirts.
“In order for them to order & make my products (even to keep working with them) I have to sell at least 36 pieces,” she wrote.
“I was getting such good feedback that people loved it & were gonna buy it. No one has kept their word.”
The influencer bubble is bursting. This young lady has well over 2 million followers and couldn’t sell 36 shirts. Focus on genuine engagement and not followers cuz they ain’t gonna buy a thing. pic.twitter.com/uOSVxc2k4D
— Flawless and Brown (@kissmyelite) May 27, 2019
Her confession was swiftly captured and put on social media for all to digest, which prompted a discussion about the effectiveness of influencer marketing and if the influencer bubble was meeting its end. It makes sense. Selling 1,000 products – let alone 36 T-shirts – for someone with millions of followers would be easy. The math adds up.
But it didn’t for Arii.
The truth is that her followers aren’t her customers.
Understanding who will actually buy from you and what they will buy is a key business lesson.
— Tamara 🇧🇧 (@baydiangirl) May 27, 2019
Understanding how marketing works is very important when launching a product.
Followers/Traffic/Interaction/Views doesn’t equal sales
Understanding your target, sell what they need at a price they’re willing to pay and a quality worth the $ = Sales.
— 👑 IG: uNdlunkulu_Xoli 👑 (@uNdlunkulu_Xoli) May 27, 2019
skimming her ig, it looks like she just didn’t have a real “brand” other than taking cute photos of herself, there was no videos, no comedy, nothing inspirational. i thin she mistook people liking her aesthetic as “a brand”
— Kelandria (@angeltenders) May 27, 2019
Where did it all go wrong?
Jack Appleby, an advertising veteran, said this shouldn’t have been the case for Arii. Moving products for an individual with strong social presence is not a cause for concern.
“Most creators in the 2 million plus club can move hundreds, if not thousands of units with relative ease. For this brand launch to have failed so severely means gigantic mistakes at every step,” he told Adweek.
While Arii’s blunder presents a strong case to dismiss the relevance of influencers in today’s all-digital age, the bubble will remain, provided that influencers understand that follower count doesn’t necessarily translate to convincing persuasion.
“As consumers, we look to influencers for a different reasons, whether that’s inspiration, education or entertainment, and we’re not always looking at an influencer to be sold to,” said Reesa Lake, partner and EVP of brand partnerships at Digital Brand Architects.
“In her past content, she might not have been used to selling or prompting her audience to go buy her favorite fashion pieces.”
Scrolling through her photos, I noticed that captions are often brief, even in shots where she wore endorsed garments. Shopping instructions, links, and sales announcements were lacking. In essence, her followers were “trained” to be viewers, not shoppers.
Besides, there were only two posts promoting her clothing line, and she wasn’t actually wearing products from them in either of the photos.