The Four Corners Documentary: Generation Like offers a deeper look into what it means when we decide to publicly display our support for brands via social media.
“Likes”, “Retweets”, “Shares”, “Favourites” have become in their own way a currency – not only do people’s interaction with brands via social media both helps to validate themselves as a person in a world where online image matters so much, they also advertise for corporations to a relevant market (peers), building brand awareness and advertising on behalf of a company without requesting anything in return. The value of social media companies is based largely on their potential reach. And now it is not so much about the technology itself, but what is being achieved via it. Our time and emotion becomes the value of advertising. Many corporations have begun to exploit this mash up of culture and commerce where the consumer is equally the marketer. Corporate sponsorship and hidden advertising can be found all over our tv screens and throughout the internet.
In seeking out likes companies are playing on a very fundamental human characteristic; the want to feel a part of something. You can feature in Beyonce’s halftime super bowl video if you upload a selfie of yourself drinking Pepsi. It’s something that people want to do, to feel included. However it may not be apparent that they are in fact advertising a product. So how far will we go? People seek attention, and they seek validation. If they can get this over the internet, where they can be seen by so many people, maybe that makes them feel better about themselves. I think that this new way of marketing – having the consumer promote products – highlights more than just that advertisers have continued to work with an ever more aware audience, it highlights the inherent problem people have with not being comfortable in themselves – that they need to seek validation over the internet rather than just being happy with liking what they like and being who they are.
Attention seekers and even just people who want to communicate with their friends are becoming famous through Youtube. This is the case for Tyler Oakley and many similar vloggers – they are in a way their own version of a celebrity, however, the way they are seen by the public is totally different. Not being selected by a big organisation, instead becoming popular in perhaps a more organic way – through growing a fanbase online – has meant that the way Tyler relates to his audience (and vice-versa) is different to that of a Hollywood movie-star, selected for a role by a big shot director, who grew up in Orange County with fast cars and learnt how to act famous from an early age. Tyler’s videos are created in an informal way, he directly addresses his audience from his living room to yours; it creates such a different dynamic. In the documentary Tyler comments that he does run into fans who hug him and treat him like they would a friend – this is driven by the viewing settings. Watching him at home, on your own, every week makes it so similar to catching up with a friend. And viewers are offered many more ways to interact (more directly) with the one they watch.
This new type of celebrity/audience relationship is something that is fostered by the “LIKE generation”, and both parties contribute to the success.