“Deinfluencing” Takes Off On TikTok—But Will The Trend Change Anything?

Consumers frustrated by inauthentic product demonstrations and users hawking bad products are leading a movement that one industry insider says is beneficial and necessary

TikTok influencers? That’s so 2022.

Three months into the new year, one of the biggest trends to emerge on social media juggernaut TikTok is “deinfluencing.” Its hashtag on the platform has now attracted a whopping 426 million views and counting—that massive figure represents a steady increase in the term’s hundreds of millions of views since it surfaced at the beginning of this year.

But what is it? Now, instead of using their channels on the social video platform to shill for specific brands, influencers are now telling their followers not to buy or use products, giving negative reviews to some that they have used or they’re dropping in the #deinfluencing hashtag as a way to create awareness around overconsumption. 

This may seem like the death knell for the influencer industrial complex. But Meridith Rojas, the chief brand officer and resident creator economist at end-to-end influencer marketing platform Captiv8 tells LAMag that she’s not concerned about this at all. 

“I think it’s interesting because it really isn’t deinfluencing taking away influencing; it’s just a different word,” she says.

Indeed, this seems to be what’s happening here. An individual with a massive following telling their viewers not to buy something, or to buy less, or to buy this instead of that, is still that person flexing their influencer muscle. The deinfluencing trend, says Rojas, is just another cycle in the creator space, which is increasingly attracting marketing money. According to the Influencer Marketing Hub, the industry grew from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $14.6 billion in 2022—making it difficult to imagine a hashtag crumbling that economy.

A bigger threat to this space is, in fact, the always looming but recently heightened threat that the U.S. government will ban citizens the platform, which is owned by China-based company ByteDance.

U.S. House of Representatives speaker Kevin McCarthy on Sunday said that lawmakers will move forward with legislation to address national security concerns around TikTok, on the grounds that China’s government may have access to personal data from its over 150 million American users. Many of those users are not happy about this move by Congress; on Thursday, over 30 content creators showed up to protest outside of the U.S. Capitol as TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew made an appearance before a committee.

Providing TikTok remains legal in the U.S., Rojas describes the trend not as a game-changer but as a sort of “great reset,” which will challenge brands and people in the influencer game to become more mindful of who they work with and make more transparent content.

“I don’t think we’ve ever called it deinfluencing before, but it’s this need for more transparency, right?” Rojas explains. “We’ve heard ‘this is the best this’ and ‘that’s the best that,’ and somebody’s just kind of blowing the whistle saying, like, you’re getting paid and you’re not doing a good job of telling me you’re getting paid. And so I feel like you’re lying to me.”

The trend comes after the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt took off in 2022, encouraging users to share videos of all the weird, unnecessary, and/or poorly made items they bought, influenced by someone on the platform. Meanwhile, TikToker Mikayla Nogueira went viral in January for all the wrong reasons: being accused of wearing fake eyelashes in a paid partnership with L’Oréal to promote mascara Telescopic Lift, which she credited in the caption for “THE LASHES OF MY DREAMS!!”



“This literally just changed my life,” Nogueira told her 14.4 million followers in a video published on Jan. 25 and viewed over 56 million times. “I am speechless, and I’m not sure anyone’s gonna ever be able to compete with this mascara.”

Users quickly flooded the comments to call the beauty influencer out for not being completely transparent, alleging the lashes in question were actually synthetic. One user noticed the broader impact of her actions and commented, “L’Oréal and Mikayla ending all trust in ‘influencers’ with this ad and I’m here for it.”

Although Nogueira and #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt may have tainted consumer trust in influencer recommendations, Rojas doesn’t think the #deinfluencing movement will tank her industry—in fact, she says she thinks it will ultimately be beneficial by giving a generation of creators a kick in the pants to be more authentic.

“You’ve got to be honest, you’ve got to take responsibility, and you have to be accountable because people are looking at what you’re saying. You have an audience and your words mean something,” she explains. 

Social media trends can fade away as fast as they arrived, but Rojas expects “deinfluencing” to stick around a bit longer than most as it’s sparking meaningful conversations. And recently, it appears that conversation is migrating east.

PR Week reported on March 22 that TikTok hashtag analytics showed “deinfluencing” gained traction in Indonesia, with 11 million views; in Australia, also with 11 million views; and two-three million views in countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. And data on the TikTok Creative Center shows the trend is currently hottest in Canada and Ireland.

“So, I don’t see it slowing down,” Rojas says after the media caught wind of the trend she was early to clock back in January. “But it’s not going to last forever, because the trends never do.

“It’s going up, and people are really obsessed and curious with, ‘Well, what does this mean for the influencer space?'” she adds. “A lot of people are being very reactive and very hyperbolic that this is a trend that’s going to affect influencer marketing and decrease the spend of brands with creators.”

But in her professional opinion? “I just don’t believe that to be true,” she says. 

It echoes the thought of beauty influencer @rawbeautykristi, who’s been making makeup-related content for a decade. Her TikTok videos have been getting thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of views, but her commentary on the conversation, sparked by Nogueiram, has been viewed over 1.6 million times.

“No amount of money, virality or notoriety is worth risking your credibility,” she wrote in the video’s caption. “It’s SO HARD to turn down $$ or say no to brands but we HAVE TO. It’s our one job to have nothing but integrity and honesty. Yes it’s ‘just’ mascara, but the deterioration between reviewer and viewer is such an unfortunate outcome of deceptive marketing.”


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