Story by Katie Hohman
Illustration by Nicholas Forman
As social media has become a more prominent part of the average person’s life, corporations everywhere have taken advantage of its power to influence. By taking on relatable personas, companies manipulate consumers into thinking that they have their best interests at heart. Their efforts to sell goods online has blurred the ethical line between what is exploitation and what is just good marketing, making it more difficult for a consumer to tell the difference.
The most common form of this type of manipulation is when corporations attempt to relate to individuals on Instagram and Twitter by tweeting posts referencing a recent meme or a witty statement. This type of marketing has been around for a while and tricks the consumer into thinking that, because a company knows about a new internet trend, they are therefore humane and promote products they know one wants.
Recently, companies have begun to rely on more extreme forms of marketing, like utilizing fake people. Popular Instagram influencer Miquela (@lilmiquela) has been a prime example of this. Despite not being a real person, but rather a self-proclaimed robot, she has been used to promote various magazines and food companies.
Not only is her presence in advertising unnecessary, but it is a blatant attempt by large corporations to confuse the consumer. Miquela seems like an actual person and, to some extent, looks like a real person so what she promotes must be trustworthy. In reality, the fact that she is fake and her creators won’t have to face any repercussions attached to what they promote means that she only serves as a profiting tool.
Social media has allowed marketing to take on a myriad of new forms but it has also fostered a culture of manipulation. Ads on social media are more subtle than ever before. It is that subtlety that has blurred the ethical line and created a new era of corporate presence and subseqent consumer deception.
While avoiding buying from large corporations is almost impossible, it is important for consumers to be aware of how corporations market on social media. By being more cautious and critical of how companies present themselves on various platforms, consumers can avoid being manipulated unknowingly and feel better about how they shop.