Listen: SBS producer Elise Potaka discusses the world of influencer marketing and her 'Like, Subscribe, Follow' experiment
If you’re on social media, you will be well acquainted with the world of influencer marketing – scrolling through Instagram for a few minutes can often mean exposure to dozens of sponsored posts from influencers, spruiking a particular product or brand.
And, with the right audience and strategy, some influencers can earn thousands from a single post. But how does it actually work? Is there more to influencing than a filtered photo and a #sponsored tag?
SBS presenter Calliste Weitenberg and producer Elise Potaka decided to find out for themselves… by creating a fake Instagram influencer account.
Like, Subscribe, Follow, which will air as a four-part series on SBS’s The Feed, follows the six-month investigation into the creation of @thatcoastalgirl, and the subsequent immersion into the world of Instagram marketing, an industry which will soon be worth $15 billion globally.
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For six months, Calliste and Elise carefully crafted photos and posts, which gave them both a new appreciation for the amount of work that influencing involves.
“It’s not as simple as just putting a photo up and smiling. You have to work hard to make an account successful,” Elise said.
“You have to be kind of smart. You have to be a business person to make it work.”
However, the investigation also revealed a dark side of influencing – unregulated Instagram advertising, where harmful products are often marketed with no repercussions.
Although Australian Consumer Law technically applies to influencers, no cases have yet been made to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
“People don’t know that they can do that with influencer advertising. No cases made so far, no fines… for influencers spruiking a product which is harmful,” Elise said.
“Everyone is just doing what they feel like, rather than what would be right.”
A few days ago, Calliste and Elise revealed their true identities on their influencer account, to mixed reactions from their followers.
In light of this experiment, Elise warned young people – often the target of influencer marketing – to be wary of advertisements online.
“All images on social media are incredibly powerful, and it can define many things about how you see yourself,” she said.
“It’s very hard to work out what’s real and what’s not real.”
Like, Subscribe, Follow premieres on The Feed on SBS tonight at 10pm, or later on SBS On Demand.