In social networks, detailed profiles with interests are created and shown with posts, likes and comments on preferences. When someone wears a shirt with a large logo for their profile picture or likes the newly discovered brand shoes or rates their favorite café around the corner, they are addressing their very own audience: their friends, fans and followers. Those contacts take a much closer look at the person than they would an expensive advertising banner. In social networks you see real people who don't make empty product promises, but are honestly convinced of something – and can thus better convince others as well.
The success of social media stars – so-called influencers – is also based on this assumption. Because their mostly young fans regard them as role models, they buy what influencers recommend. But many influencers now make their recommendations on behalf of companies trying to sell things. So, they are getting paid! And many of them earn up to six figures a month. The problem is that young viewers in particular are often unable to distinguish between their idol’s honest opinion and what’s an advertising message, despite content labeling obligations.
Today, a brand is no longer just a product, but the experience it creates. Almost all major brands have social media profiles in which they publish product information and advertising, but not only: Sporting goods manufacturers give fitness tips, travel providers present the most beautiful dream destinations, even the city bus company tries to catch your attention with funny slogans. These offers entertain, gladly get liked, commented or shared on consumers’ own profile pages, maybe even yours. The brand thus also gets visibility among your friends and acquaintances. You’re making an unconscious recommendation. The bottom line is that the brand not only gains another fan, it gets a valuable advertising channel out of the deal.
Companies even go so far as to have people help shape the content or products they consume. Many companies host selfie contests, where you show yourself with a certain product. On holiday, information boards at the sights indicate which hashtag travelers should post their photos with. And one chocolate manufacturer even called for submission ideas for a new type of chocolate. The most popular variety was voted for, produced and immediately sold out. The hype about the chocolate contest became news itself, appearing in many news feeds, free publicity – a dream come true for all advertisers.
Whether you want to become an advertising medium, however, is still in your own hands. The call for the co-creating the new favorite chocolate sort would have fallen on deaf ears if nobody had participated. A hashtag is nothing more than a bunch of letters if no one wants to share it. You always have a choice: If you take a close look and recognize where posts come from and what interests they represent, you can decide for yourself whether to share a post, use a hashtag or take part in a competition. Or whether you prefer to keep posting your own thoughts, activities and photos.