The Influencer Industry: The Quest for Authenticity on Social Media

A critical history of the social media influencer’s rise to global prominence


Published (US):
Feb 14, 2023
Published (UK):
Apr 11, 2023
6.13 x 9.25 in.
6 b/w illus.
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Before there were Instagram likes, Twitter hashtags, or TikTok trends, there were bloggers who seemed to have the passion and authenticity that traditional media lacked. The Influencer Industry tells the story of how early digital creators scrambling for work amid the Great Recession gave rise to the multibillion-dollar industry that has fundamentally reshaped culture, the flow of information, and the way we relate to ourselves and each other.

Drawing on dozens of in-depth interviews with leading social media influencers, brand executives, marketers, talent managers, trend forecasters, and others, Emily Hund shows how early industry participants focused on creating and monetizing digital personal brands as a means of exerting control over their professional destinies in a time of acute economic uncertainty. Over time, their activities coalesced into an industry whose impact has reached far beyond the dreams of its progenitors—and beyond their control. Hund illustrates how the methods they developed for creating, monetizing, and marketing social media content have permeated our lives and untangles the unforeseen cultural and economic costs.

The Influencer Industry reveals how, in an increasingly fractured and profit-driven communications environment, the people we think of as “real” are merely those who have learned to exploit the industry’s ever-shifting constructions of authenticity.

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