Tim mentioned the BBC Documentary on iPlayer in his lecture and so I went away and watched it. I was aware that the way we are being encouraged to buy is changing and brands are now able to reach directly into our lives. There is an obsession with social media, but I didn’t quite realise to what extent, especially buying materialistic things to be just like the ‘influencers’ we see.
Influencer marketing is so effective because they are almost seen as friends to their followers, sharing many aspects of their lives. It is this trust that brands take advantage of to put their product into the consumer’s lives. The influencers are the ‘middle men’, the bridge between the brands and the consumers.
I feel that social media makes products seem more real and valuable to everyday life. Instagram ads do not seem as scripted as TV adverts and therefore the products can be seen to integrate seamlessly into someone’s life. The products aren’t pushed straight in your face but are more subtly hinted at.
We are an audience generation who consume media in different ways as a result of Instagram famous people having direct access to their followers but this means there are less filters and restrictions. It certainly isn’t always clear when influencers are genuinely satisfied with a product and want to share this rather than being paid to promote something.
I have noticed that each influencer has a different approach to ads; some putting AD at the start of their caption, or ‘paid partnership with…’ where the location is usually seen, however some simply just put #ad within a list of other hashtags, more than likely to disguise the fact that they are being sponsored. This is where I think the transparency issues come in – I don’t believe that there are currently clear enough guidelines.
There is obviously big business behind influencers. But with this, there is also a pressure to buy and surround yourself with the products that they are promoting. Hidden marketing could be toxic to vulnerable young people in my opinion. Self-extreme issues, obsession and copying behaviours are all regular occurrences. Social media companies therefore need to do more to protect these young people who strives to be the same as their influencer heroes because failure can lead to serious mental health issues.
We are all better connected than ever, however the question I have is who will protect us.