Social media is the bane and gain of today’s online society. Everyone seems to be “influencing” a product or service either paid or in hope that a brand or two may take notice of your personal hard work in promoting them. For every swipe there is a “hi guys, welcome to my channel” or “let me tell you about this product,” or “trust me, you need this.”
No swipe these days on social media can exclude the power of in-your-face marketing, with algorithms tailored to ensure you see products and services with or without your explicit permission. No one is “safe”.
Let’s get right down to it. What, or who, is an influencer? An influencer is a person or group of people pushing or promoting a brand on social media to their desired circle. Let’s get this straight: it doesn’t honestly have to be a physical product; it can be a line of thinking, a religion, a bias, etc. Influencing on social media is for the purpose of enlightening or engaging people to see reason as to why your way of thinking or preference is better. Now, it may not always have a positive effect but it will definitely get people either talking in the comment section, fighting in the comment section or having a blog or two making you trend, positively or negatively. That’s the beauty of perception and understanding.
Lifestyle: Real or Fake?
Gucci, Prada, Givenchy, Yeezy, Yitty, Fenty, fast cars, bottle service, private jet trips, pictures and so much more; lights, camera, action…PROMOTE.
Do influencers actually earn so much to keep such a flamboyant lifestyle? Are they really peppering us with products that make you scream ‘GOD, WHEN!’ or is the soliciting so good that living a fake lifestyle is better than having to face reality?
Consumers, on a daily basis, are persuaded by the opinions of people, especially people who seem to have similar tastes or values as us. As positive as such thinking could be, it can also have negative effects – from borrowing to keep up with the Joneses, to stealing, lying, fraud, plagiarism and more. The lifestyle of an influencer can be littered with mountains and molehills; while some may have or live the extravagant lifestyle they showcase or promote, some others may unfortunately be involved in harmful activities.
Validity of a product or service
What happens when a trusted influencer promotes a brand and the purchase turns out an epic fail – either because the company or branch of the company had poor customer service or the product doesn’t meet the expected hype as previously promoted? What happens is that the influencer loses credibility amongst their audience, possibly including external audiences as well. When influencing the validity of a brand, a lot of promoters unfortunately do not take the time to test out the product or service. A company can give you money to promote, but don’t you think it would be wiser to give honest feedback to ensure the company stays in business? Why think of short-term gain when you can build a legacy by not only aligning with a brand/company but ensuring they stay around long enough to keep your pockets lined.
The cost of catching cruise
According to Arvind Hickman, 55 per cent of Instagram influencers were involved in some form of social media fraud and fakery in 2020. That is in spite of an eight-percentage point decrease from 2019.
The influx of online platforms and the need for validation have pushed some well-known influencers to do all kinds of strange and unnerving things that may or may not push moral boundaries, such as lying about their lifestyle to editing their pictures. Have they been exposed eventually? Yes, but guess what – you think some influencers are bad? Wait till you meet those who want to be influencers beyond reason, popularly known as clout chasers or click baiters, who seem either oblivious or unbothered about the consequences of their actions online. To them, it is just about the numbers and likes, how to trend or become popular regardless of who it may hurt or affect negatively, be it long term or short. In recent years, there has been a deadly spike of such individuals who go beyond cyber bullying to what I term cyber pulling (a false sense of belonging due to likes and comments from strangers).
Various countries are starting to impose strict rules to sanction click baiters – from monetary fines to physical confinement or community service. This is determined by the “crime” committed all in the pursuit of borderless recognition.
To be honest, there are a lot of very good and exceptionally talented influencers out there – from the dancing, the well-lit stunning images, the reels and very intricate transitions – wow, they will definitely blow your socks off! Some even give honest feedback to brands on how to better serve their customers. To these ones, we are thankful and must give them their due. They literally are works of art in human form. Yet, like any industry, there are the underbelly of people whose actions unfortunately affect the work of hard workers negatively, making it harder and harder to trust who should influence for you, especially in today’s society where everything is out in the open and scandals rule (bear in mind that some brands really, really hate scandals and will drop a bad influencer faster than you can blink twice). There are people who, due to their irrational need to be glorified or, in Nigerian terms, ‘blow’, will say or do the unspeakable, tarnishing honest complaints and hard work of good people.
I think the best thing to do is to have some sort of centred international regulation that protects brands and good influencers as well as consumers in regards to dealing with such face-to-face/face- to-screen intense marketing tactics, while lawfully punishing those who seek the abhorrent in search of likes and online fame. The world is now borderless, with lesser control over what is displayed as a product or service, so care must be taken, no matter what.
Yes, I am on the fence, but I believe finding its positive use can definitely outweigh the bad that tries to destroy it.