YouTube star Lloyd Cadena's death in his mid-twenties so shocked the internet, even legendary American chanteuse Mariah Carey sent her condolences on Twitter. Raw, funny and relatable, Cadena is among established influencers who speak to millennials and Gen Z in a language that generations ahead don't quite understand.
Cadena featured everyday things on his channel, from taste-testing the latest pancit canton rebrand to upcycling leftover bread into oven toaster pizza, yet he commanded five million followers on YouTube, with some videos racking up millions of views.
Can the influencer magic be bottled? First off, don't call them influencers, according to MasarapBa, Instagram's resident compass of what's good to eat and what to avoid at all costs.
"Hindi naman kasi lahat porke may blog, influencer na. Madami sa kanila pawang influenza (Not everyone who has a blog can be an influencer. Many are like influenza)," MasarapBa told reportr in the account's signature funny, yet piercing style. "Tas, instead na blogger, bluffer (Some are bluffers instead of bloggers)."
"Hindi ako sanay na iniinterview about being an influencer, Mumsh. Sa observation ko kasi, merong mga common traits ang mga successful vloggers and online personalities. Meron kaming common traits kung bakit kami tinatangkilik ng mga followers namin (I am not used to being interviewed about being an influencer. In my observation, successful vloggers and online personalities have common traits that endear us to our followers)," MasarapBa said.
THE LEGIT ONES SPARK JOY
The audience validates legit influencers by liking their pages, sharing their content and conversing with the community in the comments section. They shun sellouts who stage photo shoots and pepper their posts with contrived hashtags, MasarapBa said.
MasarapBa admitted to being saddened over news of Cadena's passing, which was announced on his Facebook page late Friday.
Cadena, unlike celebrities who hawk the same products on their pages, talks to his audience. MasarapBa does this too, with followers calling themselves "Kakulto." The community has grown so big, it has its own sticker sets on Viber and Instagram.
"Ang laking bagay pag hindi ka snob, kasi relate na relate sila sa iyo (It's a big deal if you're not a snob, people can really relate to you)," MasarapBa said. Fans of the page become friends and eventually help decide what content gets featured.
"People enjoy the rawness. Parang tropa lang ang dating e. Mas naaabot ng mga tao yun and they find it really entertaining lalo na pag sumasagot (It's like you are part of each other's crew. People relate to that and find it really entertaining if you respond)," MasarapBa said.
Legit influencers click with audiences because they are funny, providing pockets of joy while mindlessly browsing through their feeds during their commute or lunch break. MasarapBa's alter-ego account, MagandaBa, reviews everyday products from tabo (dipper), nailcutters, and most recently a pink face mask that looks suspiciously like a woman's panties.
"Kasama yung pagkakaroon ng topak at pagiging alien mo. It's fresh nowadays na lahat puro scripted, puro structure. Napaka-fresh na may someone vulnerable enough to express yung sarili niya in his or her own crazy way (Having one screw loose and being an alien is part of it. It's fresh nowadays when everything is scripted and structured. It's very fresh that someone is vulnerable enough to express his or herself in a crazy way)," MasarapBa said.
LEGIT ONES HERALD CHANGE
As generations crossed X to Y and Z, consumers are looking less to celebrities to tell them what's cool (or legit) and more to YouTube and Instagram personalities who converse with them on their phone and laptop screens.
MasarapBa said consumers are tired of being bombarded with ads from the moment they pick up their phones in the morning. Very few of the content are useful or would help them to decide what to buy or have for lunch later in the day.
"Malakas ang hatak ng mga legit kasi yung mga tao sawang-sawa na sa ads. People are looking for something raw, mas totoo, mas relatable (The legit ones have this pull becuase people are sick and tired of ads. People are looking for something raw, more real, more relatable)," MasarapBa said.
"Yung nagiging legit influencer, valuable content talaga -- entertaining, informative educational at may wow (The legit influehcers produce valuable content -- entertaining, informative educational with the wow factor)," MasarapBa said.
The allure of celebrities is still there, but if a shampoo messes her hair up, she has doctors and dermatologists on call. The influencer who spent his or her own money to try it out is taking a risk.
People also identify with influencers who give back. Cadena documented how through his YouTube earnings, he was able to build a house for his mother. MasarapBa, on the other hand, is known to give struggling entrepreneurs and restaurateurs that breakthrough they need to scale up.
Last year, the best MasarapBa merchants packed a Manila shopping mall for a three-day food fair dubbed "Chubbycon." Had it not been for the pandemic, it would have had two sequels this year.
Powerful enough to make or break brands, MasarapBa refused to show herself or himself during the "Chubbycon", choosing to disguise as a Fuwa Fuwa bread mascot or a bottled water promo girl.
Already, the popular food account is pondering legacy and purpose, to "bring meaningful change to people's lives."
"Yun ang gusto kong gawin, to do good things (That's what I want to do, do good things)," MasarapBa said. "Yung nakatulong ka sa pamilya, sa nanay na walang raket (That you were able to help a family, a mother who doesn't have a side hustle)."