A series of events over the past week or so has prompted an honest look into some seriously misleading business practices. The internet is abuzz about a few events this week that led to serious introspection on how social media influences people.
I’m sure you’ve probably heard about that non-existent festival that never happened over the weekend by now. It was called Fyre Fest. It’s interesting because there has been a lot of talk since then, about an internet marketing term that gets thrown around quite a bit.
I’m sure that some people feel like it was important because it exposed a very dishonest practice within the realm of internet advertising and marketing. If you saw a previous article about Facebook’s new “react button” for comments on main Facebook posts, you might have a clue where we are going with this.
What is an influencer?
First, we need to understand what an influencer is. According to the Cambridge.org dictionary resource an influencer is defined as: “A person or group that has the ability to influence the behaviour or opinions of others: The influencer is the individual whose effect on the purchase decision is in some way significant or authoritative.”
It could be anyone from Jeff Bezos to Kendall Jenner to a professional freelance content writer who understands how SEO works and has a way with words.
According to DailyMail.com, “Kendall Jenner was paid $250,000 for a single Instagram – but no-one ordered toilets until last month.” This was in reference to how Jenner influenced a ton of festival-goers to buy tickets to Fyre Fest.
They also pointed out how that was just poor planning. We can see that poor planning was an obvious spoke in the wheel that caused this festival to flop, judging by some of the articles and photos of this PR disaster that have been circulating since the weekend.
Celebrity “influencers” have more power than we think
What caught my eye was some of these hilarious satirical posts about the types of people who went to the festival and enjoyed it, and the other articles that pointed out how ridiculous some of these kids really are that they place so much importance on what “celebrity influencers” are doing. This one is my favorite of those posts!
So is it really a crooked practice to hire a celebrity influencer to advertise an event or a product using social media? No, it’s probably not. Is it a crooked practice for celebrity influencers to post pictures of a nonexistent festival without any kind of disclaimer that they were paid to do so? Yes, absolutely. It’s dishonest or maybe it’s just kind of dumb.
Not all Influencers are celebrities
It’s also misleading, and for people who are not familiar with marketing terminology – I’m now seeing people on my own friends’ list who believe that all influencers are Kendall Jenners. They’re not, but I think this event does shed light on the problem of relying on social media and algorithms that could potentially jeopardize our free speech.
Who should be responsible for “fake news” stories?
You can read more about how Facebook implemented a plan to take charge of the “fake news” fiasco that they believe is causing harm by influencing people who just don’t know any better. What’s causing more harm though? Is our unwillingness to take responsibility in getting all of the facts more of a problem than allowing “fake news” stories to circulate the internet?
How can you really regulate this advertising practice, and limit access to what anyone could deem to be “fake news” without taking away our freedoms? Does one bad apple really have to spoil the whole bunch or could we do a better job of trying to discern fact from fiction ourselves?
Any content with the slightest bit of subjectivity could be called “fake news.” Anyone could have an influence on the general public by reaching enough people through social media platforms.
Buying “likes” and “follows”
We can even go as far as to credit another dishonest internet marketing practice for tricking the algorithms of popular social media platforms. There are several small artists, musicians, and other public figures who actually purchase “likes,” “follows,” and even comments on several of these different social media platforms that seem to base success largely on popularity.
We know that these services would not exist if there wasn’t a demand for them, but we won’t throw anyone under the bus right now.
Now, a lot of social media platforms are cracking down on these bots and inauthentic practices of “buying followers.” However, it still happens and a lot of people have managed to use this method to boost themselves to fame.
Growing pains of social media
Since social media is still considered to be a relatively new tool for communication and doing business, there are going to be growing pains. We are still developing standards, rules, and etiquette for social media use. Just like with anything new that we attach ourselves to and rely on as a tool for establishing practical uses, there is going to be an adjustment period.
Dishonest practices surface
At least Facebook got the right idea by adding a resource with guidelines on discerning fact from fiction, but how far does this need to go? Nobody really seemed too pleased with Jenner once they arrived to the party.
You could probably agree that eventually organizations and people who feel the need to resort to dishonest practices usually end up exposing themselves in some way or another.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that celebrity influencers pose a problem to our social media environment? Do you think we could be a little more responsible for trying to discern fake from authentic ourselves, or do you think it is the responsibility of the social media platforms that encourage these dishonest practices? Let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page.