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Tracy Thomas | October 14, 2022

Young people are doing the craziest things on social media with hopes of going viral and becoming influencers. However, the truth is that not all influencers naturally went viral. For most, it took strategy and financial resources to gain fame, but they do not share these aspects.

Gatekeeping is the process of controlling and limiting access to something. In this instance, gatekeeping in the influencer industry refers to how successful influencers frame information shared with aspiring influencers to prevent or limit their access to the influencer industry.

Affirming gatekeeping in the influencer community, famous YouTuber Kelly Stamps, in a video “How to ACTUALLY become an influencer,” states, “I am not a gate keeper….” It shows that influencer gatekeeping is popular.

In the book Gatekeeping Theory by Pamela Shoemaker and Tim Vos, one of the ways gatekeeping is done is through “…[sending] essentially the same messages to the public.” This tactic is specifically common among influencers. For instance, there are many videos and written content on how to become an influencer, but they all highlight the same few points.

Some recycled advice from influencers includes being consistent, producing good content and finding a niche. Although these bits of advice are significant and part of the success recipe, becoming a successful influencer requires much more.

According to an anonymous source who works with an influencer agency, “Being an influencer is a full-time job. So I think that’s one thing that a lot of people should realize is the time and energy and takes to be an influencer …you have to work your ass off for it.”

There are many reasons for gatekeeping in the influencer industry. One such is market saturation. According to Stamps, influencers generally fear that the industry is unstable and can suddenly end. This fear supports the idea that influencers gatekeep to prevent too many influencers from existing and, in doing so, preserve their income.

Furthermore, some influencers believe sharing business information about their brand can make them unattractive to their audience.

“… a lot of it is very glamorized. It’s like, look at my beautifully curated life, look at these vacations that I’m going on… [It removes] that smokescreen if you tell people you actually pay a videographer, have a copywriter, and a social media strategist…,” says anonymous. 

Furthermore, some influencers fear repercussions from disclosing detailed information about their business. For instance, in the YouTube video, “we didn’t want to share this with you,” Canadian Influencer Ika Wong states she received backlash for sharing valuable tips about influencing.

“I actually did a video on my channel, and it was about… how influencers make money on YouTube. And I would say in the history of doing YouTube, that one video got me probably one of the most hate… I think I had like 300 people unsubscribe from my channel…,” says Wong.

On the surface, influencer gatekeeping seems harmless. However, because influencers have large followings, they control the flow of information in society and their audience’s cognitive maps. According to Gatekeeping Theory, “gatekeepers determine what becomes a person’s social reality, a particular view of the world.”

By hiding vital aspects of influencing, mainly marketing and advertising costs, Influencers create the perception that they all randomly went viral. When their audiences who aspire to become influencers do as instructed with little or no success, it leads to negative feelings such as feeling like a failure or unloved. These feelings contribute to various mental health issues, such as anxiety, low self-esteem and depression.

Furthermore, the fear of failing can lead to desperation for success, inhibiting cognitive reasoning. In aspiring influencers, desperation shows up as participating in harmful trends that often lead to injury and death.

Influencer gatekeeping hurts society. Therefore, it is important to educate influencers about its dangers. Also, educating aspiring influencers about gatekeeping in the influencer industry is crucial to set realistic expectations of the financial resources needed to become an influencer.