Social media has given us a place to meet people around the world since the early days of MySpace. In the most recent decade, we’ve witnessed first-hand how life-changing social media can be for an individual. Scrolling through TikTok, you never know when you’re going to come across the next Charli D’Amelio or Addison Rae. Times have changed rapidly since the introduction of social media, and the opportunity that it has given for almost anyone to go viral has changed everything about the perception of online culture and who we want to see succeed.
For some online celebrities, growth and success stem from much more than a loyal fanbase. Industry plants are all over the entertainment industry and their teams are there to help properly promote what is going viral in order to help them gain the following they need to pursue their career.
What is an industry plant?
Thanks to the popular Lil Nas X song, “Industry Baby,” we have become much more familiar with the term “industry plant.” These are individuals who are labeled as being backed by a major record label and professional team, giving the illusion of a homegrown organic following, without this being fully the case. The American Dream itself is being able to rise above the ranks no matter your social status or economic situation, this is why we connect with influencers and celebrities because at one point they were in the same situation as a lot of us. Seeing someone become the next big thing gives us all hope that we too can make it to the same place.
We've seen throughout the 2010’s and today artists such as Lorde, Olivia Rodrigo, and Billie Eilish, all being speculated to be industry plants. With their reach breaking record after record, it often begs the question, how could this be possible without the help of a supportive team that has pre-strategized their every move? Utilizing social media algorithms and winning the viral lottery is essential to internet success and we know it’s organically possible through artists like Tai Verdes and rising star Axel Webber, but these industry teams are able to calculate the exact time of when and how something will go viral.
Industry plants on social media
Industry plants are definitely not a new concept to us today, we’ve seen them since the early days of hip hop, however, the use of social media gives us insight into the new ways these individuals can sprout and even make us more hyper-aware of the content we consume. With artists like GAYLE, the use of social media can be a powerful tool for those who know how to use it correctly. In a series of TikToks, artist GAYLE asked for suggestions of song topics using the comments of her video. Then, in a now-viral video, she took a comment suggesting to write a song using the alphabet. That song, “abcdefu,” went on to become the “biggest song in the world” reaching number one on the Billboard Global 200 list, and has now spent 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 6. Studying the way music goes viral on TikTok and other social media sites is integral when working in the digital marketing space. Taking note of how other creators gain their large followings will always lead to others trying to imitate their content or style of content to acquire that same level of attention.
As people who have grown up along with social media, we are much more sensitive to the image that influencers, artists, and celebrities exude. Being a part of an influencer's rise to fame and mainstream media is always an exciting feeling, as though you can also be responsible for them reaching their goals. This constant motion between the influencer and the audience builds the most important thing a content creator needs; their fanbase.
No one can deny the talents of industry plants, since the teams behind them are evident of the talent and growth they are capable of meeting. While most industry plants do a good job of feigning organic growth, they build up strong loyal fanbases who will vouch for their talents and genuinely enjoy the content they produce.