Category Archives: Cybercultures

In a world of Kardashians, be real

An American Family is often credited as being the first proper reality TV series to hit screens in 1973.  It was a fly-on-the-way documentary that followed the lives of ordinary couple Bill and Pat Loud and their five children.  Containing arguments, affairs, and ultimately divorce, it caused a furore in America and changed the face of television forever more.

The model of reality TV didn’t change much over the years and became a ‘social norm’ for those growing up in the noughties, which saw an explosion in such series.  Programmes like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Big Brother and Masterchef were churning out reality tv stars by the week and, suddenly, we had a whole new type of celebrity.

We found ourselves swamped with reality tv stars everywhere we turned – tv, magazines, every type of opening imaginable and, of course, online – and so was born the ‘Influencer’.  It was the growth of social media though that really exploded the power of these influencers and brands began falling over themselves to be associated with the ‘celeb of the moment’.

As with all fads, the reality tv sector eventually reached saturation and we started to tire of the ‘z-listers’.  We wanted something new, something authentic and real.  We grew tired of scripted ‘fake reality’,  we wanted real people in real life circumstances.   And so dawned the era of social media influencer – real people, just like you and I.

Popular online influencers tend to be bloggers or vloggers on certain topics – fitness, clothes, make-up, parenting, cooking – the list is endless.  It takes a huge amount of hard work to make it as an online influencer and build a following large enough to attract brands to use your influence as paid promotion.

This type of marketing has exploded in recent years and focuses on influential people, rather than the target market as a whole.  A brand identifies individuals that have influence over potential buyers and orients marketing activities around these.  It works because people buy from people they trust.

Social Media Influencers focus on particular genres and build a following of similar minded people.  They are in a position to build ‘real’ relationships with people who brands also want to build relationships with.  Influencers reach consumers via their blogs and social networks and their marketing clout has been steadily growing along with the popularity of platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

According to recent research, 70% of millennial consumers are influenced by the recommendations of their peers in buying decisions.  The same research found that 30% of consumers are more likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity influencer, as they relate more to these and value their opinions more than that of celebrity influencers.  And that really brings us to the crux of the current controversy – the issue of transparency and trust.

Influencer mkt

The appeal of non-celebrity influencers centres around our ability to relate to them.  They invite us into their lives, their homes and their families, and become our ‘friends’.  A study by Altimeter Group showed that out of the influencers surveyed, 71 percent say their followers remain engaged due to the influencer’s authenticity…but what happens when an influencer isn’t being authentic?

In a world of millennials, where the line between the online and offline worlds has become so diluted as to almost be invisible, these online influencers are as authentic to many as ‘real-life friendships’.  They trust and believe these people, so when they make a recommendation, that carries a lot of weight.

For a long time, many influencers were getting away with blatant advertising cloaked as ‘friendly advice’ until the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) started to clamp down on them and insist on transparency when being paid to promote products.  We now see bloggers using the likes of #promotion #sp or #ad to let us know that the post is a sales promotion.

While that was certainly a step in the right direction – although not every online influencer has been following the ASAI’s Code of Advertising Standards – it still left a huge grey area in terms of transparency.  What happens when a blogger isn’t being paid for a promotion but is instead receiving free products/perks from a company in lieu of promoting same?  Surely this should be subject to the same rules as paid promotions?

Unfortunately not, and so it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between what is genuine advice and what is paid promotion anymore.  For me, this reflects a huge violation in terms of honesty, decency and truthfulness – the very core values on which influencers build their following – and ignores the bloggers’ responsibility to those followers and society as a whole.

Many of these Influencers are role models that their followers aspire to, especially the younger generation.  They wield a lot of power and that’s why transparency is so important.  Much of the current controversy has focused on the use of filters, or worse still, photoshop to alter images, thus creating unattainable body goals for many young influential followers.

There has also been concern that certain influencers have used cosmetic surgery, fillers, botox, etc. while claiming their enhanced looks are due to certain products.  A recently set up Instagram account under the handle @bullshitcallerouter has been calling out influencers on their false advertising, re-posting various pictures which had clearly been altered or photo-shopped.

So where to now for influencer marketing?  Onwards and upwards it would seem given the continued growth of social media.  Hopefully, however, the current focus on the area may force a more transparent and honest approach from influencers and encourage the brands they work with to take more responsibility for the type of content being created in their name.

As the mother of a young girl, I certainly hope so.

Karen Twomey is a freelance Public Relations and Social Media Consultant with Communications Hub  For further information Tel: 087 7642576 or email: Karen@communicationshub.ie

 

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Online Addiction, Me? Surely not…

A few months back, I wrote a blog about the importance of ‘switching off’ from work in this 24/7 online environment that we now live in.

Online addiction is an issue which I feel strongly about, and one which has become a real contributor towards mental health issues in our society and workplaces.

On a recent (much-needed) holiday, I found myself reflecting on my ability to take an online hiatus (also much-needed).  It occurred to me that it was reasonably easy to make the decision to ‘switch off’ from work.  If we’re lucky enough to have a separate work mobile, we can switch it off.  We can choose not to log into our work emails, or to check our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.  It’s not an impossible feat.

What is becoming increasing impossible, is the ability to ‘switch off’ from an everyday perspective.  There is little doubt, no matter what our age, most of us are becoming increasingly dependent on the online world in our day to day lives – be it death notices, current affairs, or match fixtures – it’s all there at the click of a button.

Take my father, who is in his sixties (early sixties – important to distinguish or I may risk losing the coveted ‘favourite off-spring’ title).  He was the generation who lived by the daily newspaper, maybe even two or three different titles on a Sunday.  Like most of us, he has abandoned his beloved newspaper and now gets his news online.

Some statistics would indicate this online reliance is not an unusual trend for those his age with the fastest growing Twitter demographic in Ireland the over 55s.  It represents an interesting shift.  Traditionally, those with online addictions were often portrayed as sulky teenagers glued to the couch taking copious pouting selfies.  Not anymore.

Social media addicts are now as likely to be those of us in our late 30s, and upwards.  We may not be snap chatting our buys from Pennys, or Instagramming with the latest hashtags (I said MAY not – ahem), but we are using social media, for all types of reasons, all the time.

As I work in social media, I made a very conscientious decision to try to switch off my Wi-Fi as much as possible during this year’s holiday.  I’ll put my hands up and admit – I failed miserably.  Why?  I’m just too reliant on the web.  I logged on every day.  I checked the weather in France (mostly raining), weather at home (mostly sunny), I googled tourist attractions in our area, I logged onto the wine depot website to see what treats I’d stock up on to bring home (well worth a visit if you find yourself touring Brittany).  I googled, and then I googled some more.

It wasn’t all holiday and cheap wine related, of course.  Even though we were cocooned in our holiday hideaway, the world was still turning, and tragedies still happening.  While we were away the terrible and senseless shooting took place of 49 innocent souls at an Orlando nightclub.  It was shocking and unbelievable, and we wanted to know Why? How? Who?  So, we logged online to help us understand.  What else could we do?

On reflection, I feel disappointed in myself that I couldn’t ‘switch off’ for two short weeks.  I wonder what it says about me and my dependency on the online world.  I wonder if I’m becoming (or perhaps already am) an addict.  With 46% of the world’s population now logging onto the World Wide Web every day, it would seem I may not be alone.

Karen Twomey is a freelance PR and Online Communications Consultant with Communications Hub Tel: 0877642576
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Why it’s important to cyber-stalk yourself

Have you checked out your social media footprint lately?

Well, maybe you should.

Here’s why…

Jobvite’s 2014 annual Social Recruiting Survey shows exactly what hiring managers are looking for when they check out your social media sites.

And the results may shock you.

The data shows a staggering 93% of bosses are checking out potential employees social media profile before making a final hiring decision.  Of these, 55% admit to reconsidering a candidate based on what they found online.

Say-no-to-drugs

Employers note the biggest turn-offs on potential candidates on-line profiles as including any reference to drugs, poor grammar and spelling, and any reference to sexual activity.

On the plus side, most employers are engaging social media to recruit staff now, with 94% using LinkedIn and 64% using Facebook to advertise a job.  In fact, 73% of all jobs offered are now filled through social media.

Starting to panic?

There are various sites available to check out your social media footprint.   Or anyone else’s you may have an interest in…just saying.

Google and Google Images are a good starting point.  Then there’s Pipl.com and Spezify.com if you want to up the ante on your stalking.  You can even check for a criminal record.  Gives a new meaning to the whole concept of ‘checking references’.

How can you make this right? 

(Pixshark.com)

In truth, it’s difficult.  Check out this article on How easy it is to delete yourself from the web

I’m sure the day will come, and very soon, where we will be able to contract a company to erase our social media history, at an affordable price.  It may not too bad for those of us who only discovered social media in our twenties, when most of our crazy days were behind us, but for those who grew up in the shadows of social media platforms, it really is a different story.  For many, their social media history created in their carefree teenage years, may haunt them long into their thirties and beyond.

Surely this isn’t fair or right?  Or is it?  Is this the true meaning of freedom of information?

Check out this social media experiment carried out by Jack Vale Films.  It’ll make you think before you post…

 

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