Instagrammer’s Failed Product Launch is a Cautionary Tale for Emerging Influencers

Note: This post was originally published on June 4, 2019

Last week, Arianna “Arii” Trejos’ failed launch of her tee-shirt line ERA sent social media into a frenzy of uninformed advice, snarky quips, and unbridled schadenfreude. Many view her story as an indicator that “the influencer bubble is bursting.” I view it more as a cautionary tale for emerging influencers.

THERE’S INHERENT RISK IN BEING A PLATFORM SPECIFIC INFLUENCERArii emerges as one of the most popular Muscal.ly Musers

Musical.ly was the preferred platform for a hundred million lip-synching preteens reaching the peak of its popularity in 2016–2017. TheyLoveArii was one of a handful of Musers, along with her best friend BabyArial that rose to celebrity status on the platform amassing over 6 million fans. Arii had a first-mover advantage on an emerging niche social network.

We’ve seen platform-specific influencers struggle before, attempting to transition from Vine to Snapchat. When Musical.ly merged with TikTok in 2018, many of the original Musers looked to advance their personal brand on more “traditional” social networks such as YouTube and Instagram. Platform-specific influencers have experienced mixed results when attempting to create a cross-channel community and this may be the case with TheyLoveArii. Arii would leave her first-mover advantage and niche category behind and attempt to establish her brand on Instagram and YouTube as a fashion influencer — entering an already saturated category.

THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS TO GROWING AN ENGAGED AUTHENTIC COMMUNITYArii begins with a shaky foundation on Instagram

In analyzing Arii’s Instagram audience we estimate that close to 50% of her community consists of automated, bot, or pod accounts. While she still has over 1 million “real” followers, this would make us question the totality of her engaged audience, which we estimate between 50,000 to 100,000 which is still a considerable amount, but nowhere near the 2.6 million listed. In addition, in a random comment analysis, there is little to no indication that she has a significant ability to drive awareness, purchase intent or sales through her Instagram channel.

PARTNER WITH THE RIGHT MANAGERS, ADVISORS AND COLLABORATORSArii looks to grow her presence and launch a business

In December of last year, Fullscreen signed Arii to their fully-managed talent roster that works with a handful of carefully selected creators in all aspects of their careers — including launching businesses. According to Fullscreen, “our team turns our clients’ passions into businesses with staying power.” In fairness to Fullscreen, it is unclear how involved they are with Arii at this moment, but they seem to have failed in their promise.

When it comes to partners, make sure you have a seat at the table. Even if you are a teenager, it is critical to have strong relationships with all the stakeholders in your ecosystem and be your own greatest champion.

A DIGITAL COMMUNITY IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PRODUCT-MARKET FIT COMBINED WITH A SOPHISTICATED MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS PLAN Arii fails to sell the requisite number of clothing to start her collection

One of the benefits of having an engaged digital community is that you can leverage the community for insights — especially when it involves products you will be expecting them to purchase and/or promote. In this case, it seems as though her only strategy was to hope that her community “kept their word” in promising to buy her merchandise.

AS CLICHE AS IT SOUNDS, GROW FROM YOUR FAILURES AND MISTAKESArii creates a media moment of her failed launch

Arii would not have been the first entrepreneur to test product-market fit and fail, but it is her response that started the firestorm on Twitter and within the media. The initial response from Arii (since deleted) seems to come from a good place. She knows that she had friends help with the launch, not knowing whether or not the product line would be accepted by the company — and it ends up amounting to a public apology to a handful of friends that perhaps could have been handled with a group text.

Snarky comments from Twitter and the media aside, this is a true learning opportunity for Arii and one that hopefully can lead her down a path of renewed success.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

Lippe Taylor is New York’s most iconic digital pr and marketing agency.