Rise of the Social Influencer and Sponsored Posts
We are acutely aware that traditional media has misled us over the years with reviews and opinions being sold to the highest bidder on our TV screens or favourite magazines. Meanwhile, the rich and the famous continue to advertise and endorse products they apparently have never used nor have any interest in.
Savvy digital natives have naturally turned away from these lies and embraced online communities to obtain their information from a trusted source with an authentic voice to cut out the middle man. After all, celebrities using their influence to get people to buy more stuff is considered bad form at best or shady, cheap and tacky at worst.
Online bloggers and vloggers are now becoming incredibly influential online with thousands of followers, readers and viewers. It would appear that new media is allowing these home users to adapt much quicker to new technologies or online trends and stay one step ahead of large corporations with their million dollar budgets. But equally constrained by time and internal red tape.
For too long, industry brands and agencies concentrated solely on the meaningless exercise of collecting a large number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Some companies even fell into the trap of purchasing thousands of fans so they could have a respectable number against their brand name only to end up with a silent online community and nothing but a tumbleweed floating past.
Rather than drink this Kool-Aid, everyday users realised the antidote to this madness was to create meaningful connections with their audience. This led to the rise of the so-called “mommy bloggers” with their influential opinions that are relatable to every household and broadcast to a worldwide audience that most businesses can only dream of reaching.
Now that companies realise these benefits they are queuing up to partner with bloggers to deliver their message via a respected, authentic and independent voice. Familiar names such as Microsoft now regularly employ the tactic of rounding up the most followed people on Twitter and make them feel like kings for a day during their major keynote speeches in the hope they will spread a positive message far and wide.
Should we be concerned that this last trusted source is becoming tainted with opinions on sale to the highest bidder?
As a blogger myself, I often battle with taking that sponsored post or review gig thinking that equates to selling my soul for a few gold coins. Don’t misunderstand me, if it’s a product they are passionate about or even interested in, I do not see a problem. It’s only when people are tempted to write gushing praise about a product they secretly despise that I think you have thrown away everything that you supposedly stand for.
With great power comes great responsibility and as online personalities increasingly inherit the same influential powers as the celebrities of the past. I genuinely hope that they offer a little more restraint and are much more careful what they choose to endorse.
The rise of the ‘Social Influencer’ prompted some companies to take advantage of the phenomenal viewing figures on YouTube via stealth marketing. For example, Machinima were caught paying two Vloggers a total of $45,000 to produce videos specifically endorsing the Xbox One console. The videos generated 19 million views for videos about Microsoft’s console in what was ultimately deemed as deceptive.
Thankfully new advertising guidelines in the UK demand that YouTube Vloggers must inform their viewers if they are being paid to promote an item to bring transparency to these very murky waters.
Marketing companies will often judge online influence by looking at a table of the highest number of followers and throw products in front of that person that is possibly the laziest and misguided tactic they could ever make. Those that take the quick payment are deceiving their audience and underestimating the intelligence in being able to see through tweeting a product placement photo of them eating a bar of chocolate.
It could be considered quite depressing to think that after all these years, we are still trying to put a price tag on everything that moves. Despite our advances in technology, there are still primitive and sneaky methods being used to encourage everyone to buy more stuff they don’t want or need.
However, there is something quite refreshing and exciting about digital natives forming online communities to share ideas, different ways of thinking and using their authentic voice and personality for the greater good. Only when you understand the power of your unique self-do you realise just how criminal and counter-productive, it would be to throw it all away for a few dollars.
What are your opinions on the rise of the social influencer and the value of online influence?