Last week, while we were discussing Instagram ethics, the internet broke the story of the social experiment of all SOCIAL experiments. A youtuber revealed that a series of Instagram posts chronicling her seemingly luxurious holiday to Bali, was intentionally staged and planted to test her followers, utilising the variety of homewares, settings and accessories available at her local IKEA.
Youtuber Natalia Taylor announced on her channel that she had in fact “faked” the holiday, even leaving little Easter eggs via the large white IKEA tags in some of her posts, to see who was REALLY paying attention. Natalia animatedly proclaims and snaps that one shouldn’t “believe everything you see [snaps an arch] on ‘The Gram’.”
Mentioning the massive influx of manufactured content infusing the tidal movement of youngsters fighting for their place in the influencer-market, audiences have clearly grown increasingly angry at the lack-of-trust created by photoshopped scenarios featuring the perfect sky, oceanic reflections, candy-floss clouds, wind-swept outfit and strategically placed flock of birds (to indicate movement and REAL-NESS, duh). And there have even been a flock of “influencers” posting images of other individuals’ escapades and passing them off as their own. Shameful, really [insert photoshopped tiny violin].
So, if you’re a brand, how does a skilfully lit and set-designed shot of products in-situ fit into the mix? If you are setting yourself beside influencers who might be artificially (or strategically) crafting a visual experience unrepresentative of their true offline selves, do the same rules apply? Is crafting or curating content a no-no?
Audiences consisting of 16-25-year-olds especially expect gratification, and if it’s instant, all the better. But moreover, they want choice. They are hard sell averse. They are on the cusp of self-actualisation (lol or so they think) and are using the brands they choose to define themselves. But the entertainment factor is key. In inbound marketing terms, this is the delight stage, that comes after you’ve closed a purchase and what could then turn a buyer into a promoter.
The realisation of the double-standard comes from the fact that influencers, or rather “content creators”, are PEOPLE (we hope). And that they are trusted by followers because of their relatability, humanity and the premise of honesty. The influencer coin dropped long after that relationship was established. So, when it comes to brands, let’s be honest, audiences aren’t expecting a human. Where young’uns aren’t using social platforms to communicate with brands, they ARE consuming their content.
So if you need to utilise some Scandinavian furniture and strategic lighting, by all means do it.
Just don’t lie about it.