DIANE PHILLIPS: Influencer wariness



Diane Phillips


RONALDO, the drop-dead handsome, talented Portuguese footballer, gets $1.6 million per Instagram post, another $800,000+ per Tweet. When he vouches for dandruff-beating Clear shampoo and hair products, enough of his 443 million followers scamper to scoop up bottles off the shelves that he’s worth every penny of the funds he earns as an influencer.

Cristiano Ronaldo may be top of the pile but others aren’t far behind. Kylie Jenner is hauling in $660,000 per post as number two on Instagram with 339 million viewers who somehow find the cosmetics she’s using and her sitting for photo shoots fascinating enough to follow.

Soccer great Leo Messi is pulling a close third on Instagram while Justin Bieber rules YouTube.

Ronaldo and Messi are so insanely popular that a few weeks ago when they appeared together in a photo, they literally “broke the internet”.

The rise of influencers has been so great, so sudden there is nothing in our history to compare it to. Stars with familiar names – Dwayne Johnson, the Rock, the Kardashians, the Jenners, Ariana Grande – are among the highest paid in the world, not because of their day jobs but because of the number of people who follow them on one online platform or another, hoping to absorb some meaning of life they reveal, habit they have or product they use that may unlock a secret to happiness in their own lives, though few would probably admit that’s why they do it.

Being an influencer with millions of followers is a heck of a second job for stars like Ronaldo, Jenner, The Rock or Messi. Let’s not forget Beyonce who pulls in a cool $134m a year for her Instagram profile.

The industry has so exploded that it is served by a host of marketing platforms vying for the business just as movie studios once did for actors. Elon Musk bought his own. Why not? He has more than a hundred million followers on Twitter, though cares little for Instagram which is image rather than word-driven.

While online platforms with influencers and followers may be the latest, hottest form of impacting behaviour, persuasion by personal trust is nothing new. Star power sells and when that star is a winner in stage, sports or business, what they suggest takes on even greater meaning. If you want to be a winner, do what a winner does. Under most circumstances, that is perfectly fine, but what happens if the trusted person you are following makes a mistake and carries you down the rabbit hole with him? If Shark Tank’s Mr Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, says he invested in FTX and you know that O’Leary parlayed a borrowed $25,000 into a net worth of $400m through educational software, why wouldn’t you trust what he has to say? He’s got every credential on earth – self-made, smart, savvy, understands currency. What more could you ask for?

Or if you watched the $20m ad with Tom Brady and his now ex-wife Gisele Bundchen as Brady is calling everyone from a hard-working mechanic under a vehicle to an obnoxious CEO of something, asking “Are you in?” and telling them he is, wouldn’t you think you, too, want to be doing what Brady and all these fine folks are doing, getting a piece of the FTX action?

The reality is winners sometimes lose. We witnessed it in The Bahamas where people we respected, whether we followed them or not, became the spokespersons for a tangled web that unraveled before our eyes. The FTX saga will continue to unfold. The drama is only beginning, hopefully there will be a post script on the sentence rendered, a reflection of the value that the early earnings served in helping the poor and needy.

The larger question remains, what is the consequence of the FTX collapse on trust and on the skyrocketing influencer industry when innocent investors trusted the trustworthy, high profile, high-earning, highly popular Kevin O’Leary and Tom Brady? Men who used their power of persuasion to lead investors to FTX, the crypto trading platform that went from multibillions to bankrupt in less time than it would take to get a driver’s licence renewed in The Bahamas.

Will the blemish impact influencers or will we continue to trust that when Ronaldo promises Clear will put dandruff in its place, those who suffer will give it a try? Or maybe the influencer market is one that requires standards just as the crypto market does, with legislation equivalent to the Stable Coin Act that will separate the Ronaldos who help develop and test the products they endorse from those who look pretty and smile into a camera.


THE RESTAURANT that appeared - and is disappearing - at Montagu Foreshore Park.


In recent weeks, an illegal structure intended to be a restaurant was erected at Montagu Foreshore Park. In the last few days, the platform to the east was removed.

I say illegal because no building permit was issued, according to the highest authority in the matter. I’ve had no fewer than a dozen calls from folks who are begging action be taken rightly feeling no permit should ever be issued for a restaurant within the eastern section of Montagu Foreshore Park, though there is an area near the Nassau Yacht Club to the west that could serve as a potential small site.

Montagu Foreshore is a park and must be protected as a safe space where locals feel comfortable walking, exercising or swimming, where families can connect and are not displaced by heavily trafficked commercial enterprises.

Copying the former mayor of Charleston who refused to allow the most valuable piece of harbour and waterfront real estate in the city to be sold or developed, preserving it as a park and fountain playscape because, he said, “the people need a place to dream.” Please, Minister of Works Alfred Sears, one of the nation’s finest, thank you for having the platform removed and please remember that all of this must be disassembled. If one restaurant is allowed, the precedent will be set and Montagu as we redeveloped it, treasure and love it, will be lost. We, too, need a place to dream.


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