I know that a lot of content on social media is paid for, as do most people in this industry, but has the everyday Instagram follower wised up to that fact yet?
This week, Insta-famous star/blogger/model/vegan Essensa O’Neil who had over 1 million followers across Instagram and Facebook released a series of dramatic videos exposing her social media life as fake and revealed that she was paid thousands of dollars to spruik brands on her social channels.
But was it not just a mutual exchange of goods where both parties benefited? She got cash in her wallet and free clothes and advertisers only had to pay a few grand to reach an audience of one million.
Apparently Essena had a sudden change of heart on Tuesday and renamed her Instagram ‘Social Media is Not Real Life’ and then permanently deleted her Instagram and You Tube accounts saying ‘I will never do paid posts or advertisement for ANY brands on this site or in any of my videos ever again.’ Quite a dramatic, honourable gesture really.
But then, she suggested that her supporters could ‘Pay what it’s worth to you’ for her genuine content.
Is this a case of biting off the hand that feeds you and then asking someone else to foot the bill?
Why would people pay for her content now? Essensa’s intentions were admirable but fortunately for the industry we work in, we live in a world where advertisers have the cash to make things happen. And that includes people’s careers.
Essena painted the whole ‘Instagram blogger/Influencer’ space in a pretty bad light, like paid product support is a new thing. Haven’t fashion magazines been doing exactly that for decades?
Product mentions are awarded to brands as added value in exchange for advertising dollars all the time. You see them included in editorial features like ‘The Top 6 products You Can’t Live Without’ and there’s no mention of these being awarded due to media spend.
With new platforms such as Fanplay the progression from scrolling through your feed thinking ‘OMG I need that skirt’ to handing over your credit card details is now an even simpler one. Fanplay picks up on Instagram users who illustrate a purchase desire or intent from comments made and then advertisers directly contact that user through an auto customized message. Transaction complete.
Instagram is a new media platform, so it should be governed by the same authorities that monitor other media channels. This will ensure advertisers are adhering to a code of ethics that consumers have come to expect. Or is it up to consumers to wise up to the fact their favourite new bloggers’ ‘#1 summer skirt’ may not be entirely truthful? But does that mean you want the skirt any less? Probably not.
If brands see paying Insta-Celebs as a way of reaching a lot of people with minimal investment, then there’s no issue as long as consumers are aware they’re being paid. It might be good for a blast of awareness, but is that going to get you a solid ROI?
Paying ‘social influencers’ should only play a part in a campaign, it shouldn’t be centred on it. We have to remember that just like every trend, these Insta-famous stars have an expiry date, with a new batch of younger cooler grammers coming up through the ranks, faster than you can choose your favourite filter.