Author: Kat Manos

Ways The Government Has Quietly Become Interested In Social Media Usage

A few weeks ago, Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri introduced a new bill entirely devoted to curbing social media addiction. The bill, nicknamed the SMART Act, or the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act, aims to regulate and prohibit common practices that affect almost any and every mobile phone user who engages with social media apps.

Firstly, Hawley’s bill wants to eliminate the “infinite scroll” feature on apps, which would require users to manually refresh their feeds if they want to consume more content. Additionally, each app would include a pre-set 30-minute daily limit, popping up to remind users when they’ve reached said limit. Users can manually adjust the time themselves, but it will reset back to 30 minutes every month. 

These proposed changes primarily affect apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but rules aren’t restricted simply to them. For YouTube, once you’ve finished watching one video, another video will not automatically start. On Snapchat, so-called “Snapstreaks” will be eliminated as they encourage and promote users to come back to the app every day to keep their streak up.

A similar bill that was proposed in June of this year, dubbed the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, requires platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to “prove they are ‘politically neutral’ or face liability for their users’ content,” according to NBC News

In July, the FBI announced they’d be looking for a “Social Media Alerting Subscription,” or a type of A.I. tool that could comb through the posts and content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and others, to help determine if an individual could potentially be a threat to national security. Reason Magazine was quick to call the idea “like a meme-illiterate Facebook-stalking precog from Minority Report.”

Regardless of one’s politics, the growing involvement of the government’s interest in policing social media is noteworthy. It’s not uncommon for average people to remark that we all spend too much time looking at our phones, or think that people who only post selfies are narcissists despite the fact that one recent study found absolutely no link between a selfie-filled account and narcissism. CNN reports that a study that involved 10,000 UK-based children between the ages of 13 and 16 concluded that teen girls are the most negatively affected by social media consumption, so it’s not untrue to think that mental health is affected by online activity.

But should measures to curb online experiences become a government-related issue? Steve Krakauer at NBC News is quick to point out that the SMART Act makes no distinction between how adults and children engage with social media, and allowing the government such control could mean sacrificing free speech online. According to Axios, companies like Facebook are similarly attempting to regulate how their platform is being used – specifically targeting “manipulated media – everything from sophisticated AI-enabled video or audio deepfakes.”

So, what does it mean that both the government and big tech companies aim to control the average internet users’ online habits? Although many of us would agree that social media apps can greatly affect someone’s mental health, do we think these attempts at creating policy are the best bet we have? Should social media be regulated at all, even in the face of rampant bullying and even more serious hate groups spreading like wildfire? One thing is for certain: all the ways we experience social media are currently under a microscope and that can’t be ignored – and yes, they will impact influencers.

What Instagram Hiding Likes Actually Means For Influencer Social Currency

At the end of April of this year, Instagram dropped a bombshell on its hundreds of millions of followers. They announced that they’d be running a test in certain markets wherein posts would fail to show the number of likes it had received. Essentially, the one forward-facing metric of a “successful” post would be taken away from users – and people started freaking out.

Instagram was quick to claim that this test was for the benefit of all their users. In order to enable the new no-visible-likes feature, a pop-up assures the user that Instagram “want[s] your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get.” With a greater emphasis on the qualitative value of posts over the quantitative value of it, Instagram believes their app will benefit the mental health and well-being of its users. Science Alert speculates that while this feature might help certain people who struggle with social media-related anxiety and depression, it can negatively affect the creative currency likes provide to a photographer or artist unsure of their work. Additionally, what if the number of comments a post receives becomes the new marker of quantitative success in place of likes? Then it seems this fix is only temporary.

Other publications sense that Instagram is being much less benevolent than they want us to believe; the main motivator for devaluing likes on a post may be a new way to harm influencers who profit off the Instagram app. Kylie Jenner, for example, has over 144 million Instagram followers and reportedly earns up to $1 million per paid post from sponsors, brands, and advertisers – yet Instagram fails to receive even the slightest cut from each of those pay days. Now, the platform is encouraging more brands to work through them via their in-app advertising tools in order to reach their desired audience. 

Inc. speculates that this new feature constitutes a failure of re-design, and will encourage crucial key players to jump ship, much like how one negative tweet about Snapchat from Kylie Jenner back in early 2018 tanked the company’s stock by 6% overnight. Clearly, social media apps gain worth by the influencers and celebrities that use their platform. And perhaps Instagram understands this fact more than we think; Complex has been quick to point out that none other than Kanye West tweeted just last year that “we should be able to participate in social media without having to show how many followers or likes we have. […] This has a negative impact on our self worth.” Did Instagram actually take Kanye’s tweet in consideration? Do they believe that, unlike Snapchat, their worth doesn’t come from the high-profile influencers that use their platform?

While this new change might feel like an insurmountable roadblock for influencers, one thing is for certain. If users continue to create meaningful and quality content for their audience, then those people will stick around. Smart companies who understand true social media currency will recognize quality content when they see it. Content creators who prioritize making strong, valuable content first and foremost will continue to succeed regardless of the platform’s changes – and that’s the best type of social currency anyone should hope for.

Why Successful Influencer Marketing Means Focusing On Social Videos

We recently discussed in a previous blog post that influencers can make more money creating videos for brands as opposed to simple social posts. But now, studies show there’s a greater incentive for creators to stick to video – and it has everything to do with the changing social media audience. 

We all know about the latest algorithm change from Facebook, which was announced earlier this year. Essentially, Facebook aims to reward three-minute videos that can capture a viewer’s attention for at least one minute straight. If videos garner repeat viewings, that content creator will certainly reap even more rewards as the reach for that video becomes larger and larger.

GlobalWebIndex recently reported that 60% of all internet users watch videos on social media – including live streams or social videos that pop up in their feeds. This statistic seems par for the course – but it’s upon learning who exactly is watching said video content that things get interesting. In this report, the numbers reveal that 72% of the social media audience consists of people in the age group 16 to 24 years old. So, overwhelming, the vast majority of people consuming video content were born between 1995 and 2003. 

Digital Information World believes these numbers are slightly skewed because younger generations spend more time online and understand technology a bit more than those born before them. The “older” audience will eventually catch up and level out, but for now – these numbers are significant when considering how to create content. This young age group – along with those aged 25 to 34 – also have the highest number of social media accounts compared to any other demographic. With an average of just over nine accounts online, young people are most likely going to be watching videos across all of them. They are consuming the most content in more spaces online, so why not consider making content exclusively for them?

Influencers would be interested to know that, according to the GlobalWebIndex report, 40% of internet users follow brands they like and actually use, while 25% of users follow a brand because they intend to purchase from them in the future. Digital Information World remarks that these statistics prove that “influencing people via is easier if the target is more towards entertaining them rather than selling them with visible ideas.” The emphasis on entertainment feels so important knowing the social audience is young; instead of being inundated with information at every turn, young people value influencers telling them something through performance. And what better way to perform than through videos?

While it requires a bit more of an investment compared to writing social text posts, social video creation currently and will continue to hold so much value in the influencer marketing sphere. Remembering to focus on the audience first can shed light on not only what that audience would like to hear from an influencer, but how they’d like to hear it. Finding the sweet spot between successfully developing branded content for an employer and the audience meant to consume it should be the first priority of any influencer. After all, the numbers prove it.

What Influencer Marketing Studies Reveal About Creator Pay Gaps And Lack Of Diversity

Studies on influencer marketing have seem to hit an all-time high in 2019 as more and more brands and advertisers have begun to embrace the social trend. The Association of National Advertisers reported last year that 75% of ad companies employ influencers – but what exactly are the demographics of the most successful ones?

According to ZDNet, several studies were recently performed on influencer pricing according to platform, gender, and industry after surveying 2,500 social influencers – and the results are pretty illuminating. Namely, brands must be willing to pay top dollar for YouTube-based campaigns, or take the cheapest route with a Facebook post-based campaign. Instagram posts can range anywhere from $100 per post for nano-influencers (or those with less than 5,000 followers) up to just over $2,000 for celebrity influencers with over half a million followers. 

Most interestingly, regardless of platform, a significant pay gap exists between male and female influencers – particularly on YouTube. Despite the fact that women make up more than 75% of the industry, men reportedly make around $100 more a post in every industry category except for travel. In that industry, male influencers make up 39% of the demographic and earn $570 per post while females earn an average of $615 per post.

PhD candidate Sophie Bishop at Paper Magazine, meanwhile, has spent the last four years researching the demographics of UK-based beauty influencers, as well as the artificial intelligence that brands utilize in the industry. Her findings reveal something deeply problematic about not only A.I.’s role in influencer marketing, but the severe lack of diversity across the beauty industry. 

Prominent beauty brands like Sephora, Clairol, and CoverGirl implement an A.I. tool from influencer marketing network StyleHaul called The Eye. The Orwellian name refers to monitoring software that tracks “real-time, creator-fueled social conversation about products,” essentially measuring the success of social media campaigns with creator demographics like age, face shape, skin tone, and ethnicity. Simply put – the software scans faces to determine which “type” of influencer garners the most engagement socially.

Using the data gathered by The Eye, Paper Magazine created a composite of the “ideal” influencer – and it features a white woman with almond-shaped eyes, a button nose, and a heart-shaped face. Not only do these results suggest a sinister conclusion about the social audience, but pinpoints another result that Bishop addresses in her writing: some A.I. algorithms struggle to even recognize black faces, particularly the faces of black women.

These studies reveal that much work needs to be done when it comes to implementing influencer marketing across diverse creators. Whether discussing the pay gap between male and female creators, or advertisers prioritizing white creators over underrepresented minorities, there is much work to be done in the influencer marketing industry.

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