It’s 7 am, my alarm goes off on my iPhone, and I groggily press any button that will get it to shut off. Five minutes go by and finally I’m starting to get my bearings. I roll over, pick up my phone and swipe over to my homepage. A year ago at this time of the morning, I would wake to little red circles on the corner of my go-to social media apps telling me how many notifications I have waiting for me. Since then, I’ve opted out of that feature. As bad as it sounds, being a millennial and growing up with social media, I developed a hunger for the instant gratification these little red circles gave to me. Alternatively, I knew the dreadful feeling it felt to see no notifications were waiting for me. Since opting out of that feature, the only ones I wake to are breaking-news pushes and the occasional Furbo alert telling me if my pugs have been wandering the house throughout the night.
Sure, this hunger for instant-gratification may sound comical (to me it’s silly to even be writing about this), but it’s a reality for many people. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard people my age, even my friends (and myself), game-plan when the best time to post to Instagram in order to optimize how many likes they would get, I’d be rolling in dough.
Influencing with Influencers
This mentality of a social media hierarchy based on the amount of interactions someone’s content receives hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Take a quick swipe through social media, it’s nearly impossible to miss how big-name companies are using this to their advantage. In the age of the Kardashians and Bachelor Nation, companies have been able to turn online personalities into their very own spokesperson, using a popular user’s following to promote a product or service. The days of companies having to take out advertisements in print publications or expensive TV spots are no more.
Now, many companies turn to “influencers” to spread the word about their products. Whether it be an at-home-family-meal-prep service that guarantees a fresh-cooked meal in less than 30 minutes or an all-natural tea that promises to burn away unwanted weight, companies have caught on to how addicted and in-tune people have become to social media popularity.
In a recent study by Linqia, it was found that 92 percent of marketers who used influencers to promote their product found it to be effective. In that same study, marketers were asked to rank which social media platforms were most important to them when it came to their marketing strategy. Of all of the platforms listed, Instagram took the number one spot with 92 percent of marketers saying it was the most important platform to reach their audiences.
What’s not to like?
With Instagram being the most important platform to many companies, it caused a big wave when the photo-sharing app announced in July that it was test-piloting a new feature in select countries, eliminating the ability for a user to see the amount of “likes” someone else’s post receives. Instagram’s reasoning being “we want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get. You can still see your own likes by tapping on the list of people who've liked it, but your friends will not be able to see how many likes your post has received.”
This, begged the question of what a modern world of marketing would look like without the platform of influencers. Johnson & Wales University College of Business’s Michelle Rego, PhD., says that removing the feature would cause a massive shift in how companies target their audiences, especially with millennials. “Millennials are more likely to get their news ‘incidentally’ or from their newsfeeds (by accident). So, this move by Instagram would put more control back in the hands of the 'active user’ of media. From a business perspective, it may signal a return to more traditional use of influencers in paid advertising on Instagram.”
Now, instead of seamlessly being exposed to advertisements by social-media celebrities that users already follow, the advertisements would appear more jarringly, making it easier for a person to immediately filter it into the “junk” folder of their brain. However, while Instagram argues that their efforts are to make the platform more about the quality of the post rather than the quantity of the likes, Rego argues that this effort will only move the dollar and the followers to other sites. “Influencers will just switch platforms to YouTube or other options and followers will follow.”
While Instagram hasn’t made an official ruling on whether the new update will be adopted on their app worldwide, it has backed its decision to test the program saying “we’re looking forward to learning more about how this change might benefit everyone’s experience on Instagram.”
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