Arii of Instagram

31 May 2019

Popularity ≠ Influence: Case In Point

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Influencer Marketing Instructor…

File this under “surprising… but not really”: According to this BuzzFeed story, fashion “influencer” Arii failed to sell 36 T-shirts from her own brand, despite having 2.6 million followers.

In a subsequent Instagram post (below) she claims the actual number was 252… which is still less than 0.01% of her fanbase. In other words, she only needed 1 out of every 10,000 followers to buy something to meet her quota.


View this post on Instagram


hi as many of you seen, my brand failing on its first drop has gotten alot of buzz & i wanted to clear a few things up. first i never even sold t-shirts so i have no idea where that came from. the minimum wasn’t 36 products i had to sell, it was 36 of each product & i had 7 different products so i had to sell 252 pieces for my first drop (very hard). i’ve also never bought followers within the 4 years i’ve been on social media, every follower has been earned. overtime your fans grow out of beings fans. i never had the thought in my head that me having followers meant i was gonna sell out, i knew that wasn’t the case & i mentioned that before. i don’t need anyone’s sympathy nor am i trying to use pity to sell more next time. i shared my failure because i’ve always kept it real with my followers & i wasn’t going to hide in the shadows about this. i just wanna say thank you to those who have been nice enough to give me words of encouragement & advice instead of trolling me. this is just a lesson learned & i will work harder. i won’t give up!!! taking time to study & design better.

A post shared by arii (@arii) on

Whatever the reason for the T-shirt launch debacle (and the BuzzFeed story includes a number of reasons), this case illustrates what I teach about influencer marketing:

  1. Popularity ≠ Influence
  2. Not all social media stars are influencers.
  3. Not all influencers are social media stars.
  4. True influence requires changing minds or behaviors. Otherwise, it’s just noise.
  5. If all a social media star can do for a product is “generate awareness,” they’re not an influencer — they’re a model.

Arii may still rebound from this — and I hope she does. I don’t wish failure on anyone, unless they’re orange and live in the White House. But I also hope it awakens marketers who haphazardly throw money at so-called “influencers” without critical thinking and strategic planning.

For more insight on the topic, see my article, “What’s The Deal With Influencer Marketing?”

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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