The disconnect between online success and reality
By Jacey Gibb, Editor-in-chief
Whether you’re a fan of social media or a complete Twitter-phobe, the online community is more alive than ever before. But what’s interesting to note is the inability for success found on the Internet to translate into real world success.
In the eyes of the public, what makes a product/company/band/celebrity a success story? While not the cornerstone of business, a prominent online presence is understood to play a part in success. Swiffer didn’t catch its big break from creating a Facebook page and going viral, but the 1.2-million likes they’ve collected didn’t derail their accomplishments. Even a company like Walmart—which probably gets enough publicity just from their unofficial nickname “The grim reaper of small businesses”—has a Twitter account with nearly 400,000 followers.
This won’t come as a shock to some of you, but let me spoil something about the online community: it’s full of fakes. I’m not talking about people catfishing each other or creating fake, older email accounts to access porn; I mean bots and spam accounts.
The more I’ve become familiar with the world of self-promotion through social media, the more I’ve realized that a majority of it is simple misdirection. The absurd percentage of Twitter followers that are supposedly fake/bots should be a point of more concern than it is. Take President Barack Obama, for example, one of the most popular focuses of the emerging fake-follower scene. Obama has over 36-million followers, but websites dedicated to uncovering the man behind the fake-follower curtain tell us that 55 per cent of them have been deemed “fake”—this isn’t even taking into account that a large percentage of his followers have also been deemed “inactive.”
During the last presidential election, Obama’s towering follower count over Mitt Romney was seen by some as a huge advantage over the Republican. Despite this advantage provided by social media, we all remember how nail-biting the election results were.
A more personal example I can call upon would be from a house show I attended at the end of August. The band performing, Born Gold, has nearly 10,000 likes on Facebook and about 3,500 followers on Twitter; by all means, a relatively large online fan base. I would also consider Born Gold to be one of those “buzz bands” that gained a ton of media attention after being featured on websites like Pitchfork. But when it came to the show’s actual attendance number, it was barely enough to fill a living room (though more music lovers eventually showed up and bodies were lined up out the front door—which was coincidentally adjacent to the living room). It was a fun experience, but I doubt the show was deemed a financial success.
Maybe Born Gold’s social media crowd is made up of real people or maybe a significant part of them are fake; either way, the success has a difficult time transferring from one plane to the next.
User-generated online credibility concerns me. Not because I’m an avid social media user and am simply masking my envy with criticism, but rather because of what it represents. When we’re putting such a high value on this smoke-and-mirrors marketing tactic, it runs the risk of providing a false security.