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Rise of “The Bachelor” Influencers

Approximately eight million viewers are expected to watch tonight’s season finale of The Bachelor, a season that has not only garnered much commentary in both traditional and social media, but has seen the social activities and influence of its cast play a part in its storyline.

“This is the final rose tonight,” says host Chris Harrison. “When you’re ready.”

In what is sure to be the most dramatic episode ever of The Bachelor, the eligible suitor gazes at four young women standing across the room. He’s about to select the contestant who will remain on the show another week. Before our intrepid hero stands:

  • Lauren, a 24-year old social media maven
  • Ashley, a 23-year-old blogger
  • Hannah, a 25-year-old influencer
  • Rachel, a 23-year-old podcaster

Take a moment and check those titles. Oh, how the world has changed.

These digital entrepreneurs (yes, they are entrepreneurs in their own right) are making their mark through the creation and promotion of online brands. The rise of social media influencers has changed pop culture over the past 10 years, and perhaps nowhere else is it as visible as in The Bachelor franchise. The show has become a hotspot for Instagram-ready influencers who will go on to promote the next big brand on their social media feeds. But how? 

When The Bachelor premiered in 2002, the premise saw everyday women competing for the affections of an eligible single man. As with other reality shows of the era, this exposure made the show’s contestants stars in their own right. As media coverage of these new celebs grew, so did their fan base. With the rise of social media came a platform on which to engage those fans. Reality stars like Bachelor alum had a reach and popularity that made them attractive to brands looking for different ways to reach and connect with their consumers.

With this behavior now an established part of the commercial entertainment system, it’s important for those of us in customer service, social media and community management to understand this cultural shift. Staying on top of pop culture is no longer just a fun pastime, it is now a key part of understanding your audience, depending on the business. The most prime example of this phenomenon remains The Bachelor franchise.

As Instagram grew in popularity over the past decade, Bachelor stars flocked to the platform. With its emphasis on compelling visuals, it was a natural fit for the telegenic cast members who liked sharing highlights from their social lives. Eventually, the more savvy of them were posting promotional content that spoke to their followers’ interests. They understand how to engage the audience, which tends to be a marketer’s dream, comprised primarily of young women, many with a desire to keep up with the latest trends. Brands are responding enthusiastically, seeing real value in these promotional posts. Some Bachelor alumni will launch blogs or podcasts or collaborate on merchandise, but their real reach remains rooted in their Instagram feeds.

When you see a contestant go from less than 500 Instagram followers to over 170,000 during her three weeks on the show, it’s clear that their TV exposure is a big opportunity to cultivate a large social audience. Many former contestants have more than a million followers and have engaged agents to make the most of their 15 minutes of fame. Some, like Ashley Iaconetti, are prolific with the amount of brands they support. But if you’re the star of the show, your attractiveness to brands is sky-high. It’s no wonder Bachelorette #12, JoJo Fletcher, has posted Instagram pics promoting Old Navy, Vera Bradley, Reebok, Orbit Gum, St. Ives, and the NFL to her 2.2 million fans.

As we’ve seen over the past few years, these social dynamos are using their pop-culture platform to help shape consumer trends and reposition global brands. It’s perhaps a natural evolution of the mix of celebrity and advertising, and a growing part of the pop culture universe that community managers, social media managers, and customer support professionals need to stay on top of. And while we’ve seen the rise of post-franchise appearance popularity, that’s very different from established influencers looking to join the show. The question will grow: Are reality shows promoting authentic intentions, or ar they just another vehicle for up-and-coming social-ebrities?

We’ll be continuing the exploration of today’s social media influencer in future installments of the ModSquad Blog.

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