The Facade of Social Media Influence

Social media influencers (SMI)… they flood our screens with aesthetically pleasing photos, photos that have been retouched to perfection and a plethora of endorsements and advertisements. We can’t scroll for more than 5 seconds on Instagram without coming across one. They’re elusive in the way they market products for brands, utilising different methods to become more authentic and relatable, in the hopes of eliciting a purchase by YOU.

Firstly, it should be established why these SMI are chosen by brands and companies to promote their products and form sponsorships with. They are usually characterised by certain traits which include knowledge, production of quality content, high engagement and persuasion. In more technical terms, they are also characterised by the number of followers, posts, likes and comments they have. Each of these attributes contribute to the (perceived) effectiveness of social media influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing has become one of the most efficient and effective ways in which brands can promote their products or services to a specific target audience. Brands will send their products to influencers free of charge, in the hopes that they will communicate some information about the product sampled on their socials (for example, a PR unboxing on Youtube). On the other end of the spectrum, brands might pay a SMI and dictate specific requirements that they want in the content (for example, a link to where consumers can purchase the product).

Audrezeta, Kervilerb and Moulard argue that influencer marketing is a form of product placement as it involves purposefully integrating brand messages into editorial media content. Prior to March 2017, the lines were blurred when it came to this product placement on social media. The products were presented in such a way that is seamlessly integrated in consumption situations that the consumer could project themselves in, which is why it was hard to distinguish if they genuinely used the product, or were paid to do so. The Code of Ethics clause was introduced by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) which states that:

“Advertising or marketing communications shall be clearly distinguishable as such to the relevant audience.” 

As a result, this is why we now see sponsored posts or ads on Instagram clearly denoted through the hashtag #ad or by captions that tell us that the SMI are working in partnership with brands.

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SMI Jenn Im promoting a product from Braun

Authenticity is an attribute that has been recognised as being one of the most important attributes when it comes to SMI. Being authentic and posting authentic content is inevitably linked to more trust, and having more trust ultimately leads to more power when it comes to persuasion and purchasing behaviour.

Brands choose certain SMI to market their products based on their perceived reach to a certain target audience, like I mentioned before. These SMI get paid according to the number of followers they have. Essentially, the more followers a SMI has, the more they will get paid for a sponsored post. However, a lot of people actually purchase followers to seem more popular.

In The Follower Factory article, the authors highlight how easy it is to purchase followers or ‘bots’. All kinds of people are spending thousands of dollars to amass a following online – from SMI and celebrities to marketing and public relations agencies for their own clients. It has been reported that Facebook and Instagram have made a step in fighting illegitimate accounts, likes and views when they filed a lawsuit against three New Zealanders last month, in the US federal court.

So it makes me wonder, to what extent is social media influencer marketing effective if a lot of SMI have fake followers bought from companies that use bots? How many ‘real’ people are brands reaching if many of them are fake? The authenticity of the power that these SMI have can therefore be questioned.

Let me know your thoughts on the effectiveness of influencer marketing, and if you think that brands are wasting their money in the comments below. Additionally, if you think more needs be done to regulate the inauthenticity of fake accounts. As always, thanks for reading!

 

 

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Google: The World’s #1 Search Engine

When I think of search engine there’s one word that springs to mind… Google. Google has become synonymous with web search, and so much more. As a company, they have integrated themselves into many aspects of my life. When I need to find out something, I’ll just “Google” it. When I need to find out how to get to a certain place, I’ll use Google Maps. When I need to collaborate with my peers, I’ll use Google Docs.

Approximately 40,000 Google searches are conducted every second, which means 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year. Now there are many reasons as to why Google had 92.42% of the global search engine market share in April, surpassing the likes of Bing and Yahoo who only have 2.61% and 1.9% of the market share respectively.

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Worldwide Search Engine Market Share from April 2018 – April 2019

One of the main reasons for Google’s success and global use is due to their ability to provide higher-quality search results compared to their competitors. They understand what users want and will find the most accurate and relevant websites that match each query. In turn, this has made Google into a household name, gaining worldwide loyalty and trust through the better results they provide.

Currently, there are over 1.6 billion websites on the world wide web (WWW), so how does Google sift through these sites to give us search results that are actually relevant? They do this by using a trademarked search ranking algorithm called PageRank, which looks at the words our query, the relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources and our location, settings and then assigns each web page with a relevancy score.

Now, this is what Google does to try and link us with worthwhile content, but businesses have to compete with all the other sites on the WWW to increase the traffic to their sites. This is referred to Search Engine Marketing (SEM), where there are two primary SEM techniques: search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid search marketing which entails sponsored listings and paid search marketing, or pay-per-click (PPC). Google have always been transparent with their advertising, with all sponsored content and advertising being denoted and clearly labeled.

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Sponsored content for the Google search: best hair straightener

So have you ever wondered how much a Google Ad costs? There isn’t a definite answer because the ads are based on an auction system which occurs when a search query is entered. If the query contains key words that multiple businesses or advertisers are bidding on, then Google will take into account the maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid and quality score (how relevant and useful your ad is to the user) to determine where each ad will be positioned.

Once the quality score and ad rank is determined, Google will use this data to determine how much an advertiser will pay each time a click is made on the ad.

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Essentially, an advertiser can pay less for a higher ad position on Google due to having a higher relevant score, as seen with Advertiser I above. Although Google makes most of their money through Google Ads, they will want to show us ads that are applicable to our searches which makes it a relatively even playing field.

According to Wordstream, here are the 10 most expensive keywords.

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Do any of these words and their CPC surprise you? Let me know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading!

Why your Netflix account looks nothing like mine

Computer software company Domo, contends that 90% of today’s data has been created within the last 2 years.

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This data has been termed, “big data”. But what is it exactly? There are many different definitions, however Gandomi and Haider explain it using the three V’s: volume, variety and velocity.

Volume refers to the vast amount of data that is created every second. These datasets are too large and cannot be analysed using traditional methods and technologies.

Variety refers to the different types of data that we produce. Ninety-five per cent of the data that exists is unstructured – in the form of video, text, messages, social media content or audio.

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The various forms of data that we produce

Velocity refers to the rate at which data is being created. For every minute in 2018, people watched 4.3 million Youtube videos; 187 million emails were sent; 2.4 million snaps were created; 481,000 tweets were sent and 266,000 hours of video was streamed on Netflix. Astonishing!

We know that there is so much data that is being produced in a multitude of different forms, but in order for it to have any meaning, it must be analysed using big data software and algorithms.

Netflix is a prime example of how big data can be leveraged and transformed into actionable insights. Currently, they have 139 million subscribers and have been gathering behavioural data on their users. This is why they can provide such a personalised and enhanced user experience for each and everyone of us. To illustrate, when you watch a video on Netflix, it will gather data on what you searched, when you watched it, on what device it was watched on, if the video was paused (and if so, when?), if portions of the video were re-watched and what rating you gave the video.

All of these aspects help to give Netflix insights on our usage and what we might like to watch. Their goal is to keep users watching for hours on end, binging the latest TV shows and re-watching those that they love. These algorithms that Netflix have invented has saved them $1 billion a year due to customer retention and the recommendation system that Netflix has, influences approximately 80% of the content that is streamed.

If you think that Netflix has stopped there, you’re wrong. Have you ever noticed that the thumbnails change frequently? Habit-tracking has allowed Netflix to further their personalisation of user’s accounts by customising the thumbnails they see based on what they’ve seen in the part and what they’ve started to watch recently. For example, if you’ve been watching many romantic comedies in the past week, Netflix may change the cover art of other content to show the main character and their love interest.

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Same TV show, different thumbnail

It is reported that Netflix is planning to make 90 movies a year, so what are the implications of that? Maintaining maximum stream time may be one of their major objectives, however getting you to watch their TV shows and movies is another. With personalisation occurring on every level, it makes me wonder if we are actually choosing what we watch, or is Netflix choosing for us?

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you like what Netflix recommends to you in the comments below!

Can you really trust an online review?

As I ponder what to write about this week, my mind draws to one of the most memorable videos I have watched. In 2017, Oobah Butler (a journalist for VICE) made his shed at home the top rated restuarant on TripAdvisor and as a result, this act of deceit became viral. Now, how did this happen? Well it should be noted that Butler has been known for his deception before, with one of his most notable actions being how he faked his way to the top of Paris Fashion Week by becoming the designer of “Giorgio Peviani” a knock-off demin brand of Giorgio Armani. People didn’t notice this though, which allowed him to attend numerous fashion shows, convincing people that he was the creator of these jeans and was fashion royalty. Needless to say, people believed him.

So my question is how far do you think deception can go? How far can you make someone believe you, and is there more to it than meets the eye? In Malcolm Gladwell’s novel The Tipping Point, he discusses the 3 rules of change that elicit an epidemic: The Law of few; The Stickiness Factor and The Power of Context. In the Law of Few, Gladwell states that in any situation, roughly 80 percent of the effects comes from 20 percent of the causes (the 80/20 principle or Pareto principle). He delves into this idea further by contending that whether or not this social epidemic occurs, is determined by the 20 percent of the participants that are involved. These important people are either be connectors, mavens or salesmen who affect the rapid spread of messages.

Butler’s restuarant “The Shed” at Dulwich rose to the top by a number of fake reviews (written by his family and friends), where these so called “people” raved about its eccentric and eclectic nature. Moods were served instead of meals and dining could only be achieved with a booking, as no address was given. These fake reviews were the words of people Gladwell refers to as mavens. They want to help others by giving their opinion and we trust them because their intention is to help others through the spread of information.

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The various frozen-meal concoctions that Butler served to his diners.

 

After the restaurant gained some traction online, people started to make bookings. Butler’s inbox was filled, and his burner phone would not stop ringing. The only catch in all of this was that people weren’t actually dining there. Word started spreading about The Shed and the exclusivity of it all added to its widespread appeal – everyone wanted to eat there. After 6 months, The Shed finally became the #1 London restaurant on TripAdvisor purely because of these fake reviews.

 

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So, can you really trust an online review? Butler entertainingly reveals the power of perception and challenges the authenticity of an establishment. The tipping point in this situation wasn’t really about the food, but more about the power of one’s deceit. People loved the potential of getting to eat the food at one of the best places in London. It brings to light how social currency is yearned for and how word of mouth is so prevalent in making something viral. It also makes us think twice about what we should believe, and how a precaution should be taken when it comes to things on the internet.

Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think about fake reviews in the comments below!

 

Oops! I just paid $0.99 to Candy Crush

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Ever been tempted to pay for more lives in a game app? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

I’m not an avid gamer but I still remember the days where I was addicted to Candy Crush. I would play it in my spare time, on my way to and from school and even when I was meant to be sleeping, but that didn’t stop me. I was addicted to passing those levels, to reaching those goals and even resorted to asking my friends on Facebook for more lives when I couldn’t pass a certain level. I would wait for hours, waiting for my lives to be replenished until one day, I couldn’t bare to wait any longer – I gave in and paid $0.99 for 5 lives.

To give you a little more background, Candy Crush Saga was first released on Facebook in 2012 by King, a video game developer company. Since then, it has been downloaded a whopping 823 million times and counting, where gamers spent an average of $4.2 million per day in 2018 ($1.5 billion for the whole year). It’s safe to say that Candy Crush is not dead.

It is a a free app that can be downloaded in the App Store, Google Play Store and Microsoft Store. So how did it manage to make that much revenue in 2018? It was created with the freemium business model, which combines the words “free” and “premium”. How this business model works is by allowing consumers to use a software, service or in this case, a game for free. However, there’s a catch. If you want to have access to additional (the “premium” component) features,  services or virtual (online) goods, you must pay.

Candy Crush currently has over 4000 levels, each one being harder than the last. If you want to enhance your game play, you can purchase gold bars which are used as currency to buy boosters such as extra moves and again, more lives.

I thought spending $0.99 was bad until I read that one mum turned her life upside down, playing Candy Crush for 18 hours a day, eventually losing her boyfriend and spending almost $10,000 on boosters. Gaming disorder is no joke and is now actually classified as a mental health condition, according to the World Health Organisation.

Other popular freemium gaming apps include Clash of Clans, Brawl Stars and Pokemon Go. A lot of these games are played by kids, who conveniently, don’t have any money so they have to resort to stealing their parents’ credit cards or by just making the in-app payments themselves. According to this article, a class action lawsuit was made against Apple by the United States Federal Trade Commission in 2014. In return, Apple actually refunded at least $32.5 million to parents for the unauthorised app payments made by their children.

 

 

You can now disable in-app purchases by requiring a passcode or your fingerprint on Apple devices and by restricting in-app purchases on Android devices in settings. For more information, take a look at this page.

So my question to you is have you ever been addicted to a freemium game? If so, comment below.

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