It Seems Like Social Influencers Have to Sell Out Nowadays

Instagram has taken vanity to a whole new level

Instagram has changed a lot since its inception. I first joined in 2012, mainly because my friend told me to. I followed my friends, relatives, and a few celebrities that I really liked. Majority of my Instagram feed consisted of selfies here and there, sports pictures (I was a track and field athlete), group pictures with my friends and family at social outings, pictures of books that I recommended, a few scenic shots, a few Throwback Thursday photos of my younger years, proud achievements (e.g. winning a contest, conquering a fear, graduation, etc.) and few funny or inspirational memes. Instagram was basically a more visual version of Facebook, where people shared the highlights of things going on in their everyday lives.

Then things changed…

Nowadays it seems like everyone is competing for the most interesting and enhanced [fake candid] shot with a cliche caption to match. People are now seeking to have the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed by deleting photos that don’t fit in their desired theme. Since I enjoy international traveling, I started to follow more people who also share a common interest and I started seeing it even more: a bunch of cliche [heavily staged] travel photos with a cliche and/or slightly pompous quote about traveling. It’s like I can see through the BS. Don’t worry, I’m not acting holier than thou. I’m guilty of some of these (so now you’re probably calling me a hypocrite at this point, oh well).

Since the Instagram algorithms has changed (as well as other social media platforms), the users with the highest amount of likes and engagement is often the first person you see when you open the app as opposed to chronological order. Because of this people have resorting to “playing dirty” in order to increase likes and followers in order to get more exposure. The only way I originally knew how to grow my Instagram account was utilizing the right hashtags and posting in the evenings where majority of my followers are on and liking away. But then I discovered other “secret” methods that people are using to combat the algorithm change: buying [fake] followers, bot accounts that send fake engagement (e.g. commenting random emojis, and vague, irrelevant comments like “wonderful” on a post talking about a sad topic), paying people to feature them on your page, Instagram pods (i.e. a group of people who will like and comment every single time you post so you get engagement as long as you return the favor). All of these methods are done in order to get “InstaFamous.”

Why do people need so many likes and follows?

People nowadays spend more time on social media than watching television. Smart advertisers know this. They seek out social influencers to market their products to their followers in hopes of getting more customers. In return, the influencer may either get a flat fee, a commission of sales directed through his/her affiliate link, or a free product/service. Social influencers are the new infomercials/commercials. Many companies will not work with people until they have a certain number of followers. Because of this, people will do whatever it takes to up their following and engagement by any means necessary, even if it means empty follows, likes and comments by people who aren’t even a fan of their work.

What’s the point of all these followers and commenters if they don’t even support what you have to offer?

That’s one thing I will never understand. People can fool brands into thinking their poppin’ on Instagram in order to get their foot in the door to earn money and other free/discounted perks, but what’s the point if a large number o their followers never read, watched and/or bought anything the influencer has to offer. In my opinion, ghost followers ruin your conversions.

Hmm… social media sound a lot like cocaine

In a way, it can have the same effects as using drugs. Some people get high off of likes and follows and see them as a form of currency. I know people who will delete their posts if they don’t get any or enough engagement (oops, I’m guilty too). I remember the first time I broke 100 likes on Instagram, I swore I was Beyonce (not really, but see what I’m mean). Looking back, I feel idiotic for being hype about that. I was “popular” on the Internet to a group of strangers I will never meet, but offline I was just another Jane Doe.

What does this mean for newbies trying to build an online brand?

It means you will have two options: quality or quantity. I won’t tell you which one to use; we’re old enough to make our own decisions; however, I do believe viewers can usually tell who’s bluffing for money and internet fame, and who’s sharing content because that’s what they truly enjoy doing. End of the day, the choice is yours.

For me personally, I enjoy sharing useful information on social media, but it’s just a hobby for me (a hobby where I sometimes earn pocket change). I have no desire to be a social influencer if it means I have to “play dirty” to get to the top. I’ll work with my “small” circle of 700 and change followers and share ideas to anyone who may be interested.

Don’t get me wrong, Instagram and other social media accounts can be great tools to build a brand, network, and meet new people. If it wasn’t for some of the people I’ve met on social media, I would be in a different place in life. It’s just a shame that we’ve become so obsessed with curating a celebrity lifestyle in the cyber world yet out of touch with the physical world that surrounds us.

Do you agree? Disagree? Do you think social influencers and social media altogether has lost the authenticity it once had? Is their alternative solution? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Nicole Cooper

Nicole Cooper

Self-reflections, sports, travel, and social commentary that may come with a splash of contrarianism. Twitter & IG @_nicolecoop

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