2/24/2015
Social media influenza

I'm probably the only one peeved at this, because I don't like repeats in general. Imagine this. You follow the official Twitter account of something - I don't need to be too specific about this; it can be anything - and, one day, it tweets out a pretty big announcement. By "big", I mean a song and dance, sometimes literally.

So, okay, yeah, it is a big deal, you say when you see the tweet. Okay. You've taken away what you needed to take away, and you, more or less, move on.

Fifteen minutes later, that Twitter account retweets someone, saying the same big announcement. Yeah, I already know this, you go, but then, it's just one retweet.

But then, five minutes later, you see another retweet, from someone else, saying the same thing. And another. And another. And this is where the whole "I'm probably the only one peeved at this" thing comes in, because this is where I get annoyed. Come on. Stop repeating yourself so soon! I go. And then, why do these people look good on their profile photos?

So you click on those four retweets, and you notice that they're bloggers. Nothing screams "I'm a legit blogger!" than a domain name of your own. (I don't have one, and I've been doing this for ten years. Go figure.) Also, their biographies are vaguely aspirational, and the word "ambassador" pops up far too often. And then, that term. Of course, that term. Social media influencer.

What the hell does that mean?

Yes, I work in marketing, for both the day job and the night job, but it's not for consumer-facing brands, the sort of brands that are aimed at everyone. (I don't even know if that's the right term for it. In my defense, I only really stumbled into this field.) My employer sells storage systems to big companies. My not-so-employer is an industry organization. If anything, I don't have to do a lot of selling, because I have a bit of a captive audience. I just have to organize the logistics, show up where I have to show up, and do my best not to be disastrously terrible.

But I know enough to understand that some brands have this problem of not being able to engage with an increasingly fickle, and ironically disconnected, demographic. We don't watch a lot of television, at least not on a television. We don't trust advertisements. We believe in the whole viral thing. So, with fewer windows of engagement, how can we be sold stuff?

It also happens that we want to be cool, and we look up to people who we consider cool. And it's easier to do that nowadays, because the traditional barriers have been broken down, and it's easier to get that all-access thing. So we follow these people on Twitter, and we see what they have to say, and go, hey, maybe I should do that, yes? Loophole exploited.

Now, naturally - perhaps ironically, considering what I do - I have a bit against the idea of us being bombarded by messages that simply say "buy, buy, buy!" I hate it, for instance, when all that DJs say in between songs are live ad reads. I once sat through Magic 89.9 for a whole day and I'm sure roughly half of the things I heard are advertisements, both live and recorded. I found myself forced to listen to Boys' Night Out one night, and nine of the twenty-one minutes I was exposed to were advertisements. (I did count that, to the annoyance of my brother, who was driving.) So the idea of social media influencers does not sit well with me. Call me old school. Call me old. But really. Don't we deserve some place where we are not sold things?

Don't answer that. I know there isn't. I mean, the magazines you read are mostly PR stuff. When they talk about particular products, it's very likely some PR guy approached them. Can you write about this resort? You can stay there, of course. Bring your girlfriend along. Also, I must disclose, I've had similar moments as a blogger myself, this being the closest to cool I ever reached.

And besides, I'm more bent towards another question in my head. What exactly do these, ulk, social media influencers get for becoming mere megaphones?

Well, I assume there are privileges. Perks. Access to things. Nothing screams cool than having a photo with some guy from backstage of something. But then, I can only glean so much from stalking tweets. I have to ask someone. I'm pretty sure I know a bunch of these people, or I know people who know these people, but frankly, that would be an awkward conversation. What the hell does that mean? Cue long, awkward silence, followed by sudden shift of topic.

"I'm not an influencer. That event is for elite blogging!"

Except for this person. However, against my wishes, I won't be revealing the identity of the person I talked to about this.

"Elite blogging. Explain this to me."

"To be the it blogger! A top social media influencer. Translation: people who get free stuff for reviews. That's how it is in Singapore."

Ah, yes, Singapore. One of the things I gave Rainy, after my last trip there, was a copy of The New Paper which has, as its main headline, the whole Xiaxue vs Gushcloud thing. You know, a pretty influential blogger - so influential that my girlfriend and my sister know her - goes railing against an online marketing agency, alleging all kinds of fraud and stuff.

"That's all it boils down to? Free stuff?"

"The more sponsorships you have, the higher up you are in the blogging scene."

"Why did this become a scene? Gah!"

Evidently, for me, blogging is writing. Sure, acting like this is a diary is no longer recommended in this time and age, and also considering my whole corporate persona or whatnot, but I can still write about my thoughts, right?

"Kasi if you get advertising deals, then you're awesome. Ganun doon."

"I still cannot wrap my head around it."

Yeah, because, again, I didn't start blogging to get free stuff. It's my writing frustrations. And it's Robyn starting a blog of her own, quietly encouraging me to do the same.

"I can because I aspired to be one. Free stuff, plus people will think you're awesome because of those sponsorships."

I can see why, though. Wouldn't it be awesome if I got all the latest phones - the fancy ones, of course - as soon as they come out, for free?

"That was way back when, though. Then I realized that it's pretty cheap. I know blogger friends who sponsored their blogger friends for reviews. They were quick to put up a banner saying they were sponsored, even before they published the post."

"And?"

"Ayun lang. Kasi, as someone who blogs, you need public affirmation. I deny it, but then I check my followers and stats. Why?"

In other news, nobody reads my blog. Excuse me for a moment.

"So it's cheap because you can easily fake it?"

"Nope. It's cheap because... why don't you go buy your stuff, girl?"

Because it's a nice feeling, isn't it? You get all these things for free. Beauty products. Make-up. Power banks, and not the cheap ones. Or, in my case, all these pens. I give pens away in the exhibits I take part in. Day job. I also give tumblers and sports bottles away. Of course, I'll give you that if you give me your business card, and allow my colleagues to call you up. But then, on the exhibit's second day, the booths are opened to the public, and you suddenly get these so-called media people, from publications you have never even heard of, demanding a pen from you. And when they learn that you're also giving away tumblers and sports bottles, they demand they get one too. One each. Mooches.

"Ugh. It's basically that: if you're sponsored, then you're top dog."

"I guess I am aghast because - class issue! - I've been mostly able to afford things."

"But there are people who don't really need free stuff. There are people who just wanna get sponsored kasi nga, top dog. Kasi you were offered to endorse a product. What does that make you? Why aren't they getting sponsored when you are?"

"Ay, nakaka-leche 'to."

Really. So, to get free stuff, and even better, to get affirmation from strangers, strangers who are willing to follow your every word and make you feel more awesome than other people, you can just spout some inspirational hoopla on your Twitter feed, and have someone call you an ambassador? All right.

But, of course, not everybody gets to be an ambassador. Only the so-called coolest people get to be called an influencer. But, of course, that can be easily faked. A domain name, a cheap web host, some rudimentary HTML skills, a handful of VSCO Cam filters, and a couple of vaguely inspirational quotes from a random stranger. It's easy to impress people. It's a bit harder to satiate your needs for tickets to some music festival. But, of course, you have to work for it.

Eh. I have an even bigger concern. Why the hell do you refer to yourself as a "social media influencer"? I mean, you got that name so you can peddle stuff to people in a more relatable manner, supposedly, but if anything, "social media influencer" is the very marketing speak we all try to avoid. Hi. I'm a social media influencer. But pretend I'm one of you. I live a life like yours. I have the same interests as you. We're good? Okay, let me tell you about this cool thing I get for free. Really, what the hell does that mean?

In other news, I am an old, out-of-touch geezer, yelling at a cloud.

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