A Review of Bad Internet Marketing
Posted by Sadie Lulei
I spend far more time on my Instagram’s explore page than I should. I mean hours of clicking on any photo that grabs my attention, followed by either laughing, learning or cringing. The cringing part usually comes from posts that seem fake, as though they’re trying to appear like the other posts. Let me explain, because to anyone who do not regularly see viral posts this may not make sense yet.
Most people want a shot at fame. If not going all the way to being an influencer with millions of followers, at the very least people want to make a viral post. Viral posts contain information that is either entertaining, educational, or encouraging. When people want to post something viral, they’ll usually follow the formula for an already viral post. That’s where memes or trends are created, but it is also where originality dies. Which isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes people can do a trend better than the original. The issue is that the cringe factor comes in when someone is creating a post solely for the possibility of going viral. This includes stealing jokes, making up stories that aren’t true, creating posts so “relatable” that they no longer mean anything. People will pretend their significant other died, make posts as dull as, “That feeling when you have to wake up for school,” or simply retype and repost once original jokes. Maybe this shouldn’t bother me, except there is a very good reason that it does.
Filling the internet with meaningless attempts at fame lessens the value of what can be spread. My explore page contains more cringe-worthy, unoriginal content than actually inspiring or entertaining content, and what that means is that I don’t like using my explore page anymore. I may miss out on the good posts simply because there are so many bad ones.
The worst of all, however, isn’t individuals trying to go viral. The worst posts to me are when companies use viral posts to sell their product or service. I’m not saying it isn’t clever to stick a product in the middle of the typical meme design, but it contributes to the clutter of unimportant posts all the same. Likewise, most of these posts lack an understanding of what really makes a certain post viral. To me and maybe to other Gen Zs what I’m saying right now makes sense, but for anyone confused let me give an example.
Dating apps love using Instagram to market their apps. Some of them do it right and some don’t. Here’s an example of each:
Hinge. If I needed to use a dating app, I would never use Hinge. Their posts make it so obvious that their social media manager is either over the age of forty and pretends to know the demographic they’re marketing to, or they’re under the age of forty and understand perfectly well that they’re marketing at a superficial level.
The original meme was funny because it was relatable. Many people have the experience of being single or childless while their siblings get married and pregnant and, I guess, please their parents with their success. First off, I don’t even like the original meme format because I’ve found that self-deprecating jokes attribute to the psychological concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I especially do not like the joke when it’s being used to market an app.
I looked up the guy’s Twitter account and it doesn’t exist… obviously. I suppose making up a situation where the product or service is a part of a joke isn’t a horrible thing to do, but as I’ve said in several of my blog posts, the consumer base no longer wants fake. The fact that this photo is fresh off Photoshop and neither individual in the conversation actually exists, this is the modern version of old-fashioned marketing. Like I say time and time again, marketing never stays the same. The tactics can’t either.
I’m not the only one who feels this way, either. Most people my age have the same experience on their explore page and feel targeted and misunderstood as a result. It’s the equivalent of when Gen X noticed that if they bought certain things, they’d receive coupons for those things in the mail. Sure, it works, but no one wants to feel watched or targeted.
On the other hand, at least there are companies like Bumble. If I needed a dating app, I would definitely use Bumble. Their marketing isn’t just jokes targeted at a certain age group, they incorporate many elements in their online posts.
You wouldn’t find a post like this on Hinge’s Instagram page, they’re too busy faking posts to look like any average person posted them. Bumble, on the other hand, posts information on updates and how their app is innovating the issues with online dating. It’s the same idea for both Hinge and Bumble: Keep the desired demographic in mind. But they do it very differently. Of course, Bumble has faked some posts, but I think they do it in a really clever, hidden way. A way that doesn’t make people feel targeted. Here’s their best example.
I saw a headline on my explore page: “Sharon Stone’s Bumble Account Reported and Deleted by Users.” I was immediately drawn in to know more, even with Bumble’s company name sitting in the headline. Why? It’s funny, interesting, and raises questions. Bumble responded, over Twitter, to apologize and turn her account back on. People watching are thinking, I could meet a celebrity on Bumble? Like really meet a celebrity? The best part is, I can’t even prove if this was a marketing campaign. As a digital marketer I think it was a paid partnership, but no where can I prove that it was. And nonetheless, I was interested enough to read more about it. Which is what clever online marketing does.
I hope with that example you can understand the difference between online marketing that seems inauthentic versus online marketing that makes me appreciate the business. Of course, this is just my opinion I’m sharing and many people do enjoy the blended style marketing like Hinge. However, I will say that Bumble has 5x as many followers and I think I know why.
What do you think? Comment below and let us know what you think. What type of advertisements do you prefer?