Should we pay for social media visibility? A look at marketing practice in 2023

It’s past 10PM, and your family members are about to go to sleep. No, you’re not 14 years old: you’re in your 30s, and wondering what you can do to boost your channels. But because that’s too much work, you think about small distractions — which are good for your mental health, disputes aside. Instead of posting on LinkedIn, you scroll Tinder. And there you go: after 20 minutes on the platform, you come across this seemingly friendly person, mutual interests aligned, but you’re out of likes. That’s when Tinder suggests you to pay and get more out of the experience, and you’ll begin to have strong personal opinions about social media visibility.

Premium services are nothing new. In fact, it may seem like something recent, given the streaming wars debates and business model criticism that we saw, for example, with Substack. But we all remember, in case nobody’s out to call out on our “boomer bends” or anything like that, that we wanted to have cable TV; we couldn’t because it was too expensive. What we’re more interested to know is how to navigate personal and professional lives knowing that social media has changed everything, but there’s a generation who just doesn’t see it.

The easiest thing for this younger generation should be learning, as debates on ChatGPT take on the entire internet; for a lot of people, in practical life, they just want memes to look at and maybe someone’s company. The pages don’t even have to stay there: there’s an algorithm. The people don’t have to stay either, but this sparks up a more traditional battle between the ideal of monogamy and free-spiritedness. Tinder is a blessing and a curse, but few point out how.

While one user might be scrolling to see 10 different matches every hour, another might have 1 every 6 months or even a year. This blogger leans to the former setting. I’ve seen so many people who had more money than me and a lot less expectations apparently, but were still unapproachable, that I just gave up on the whole thing. As it turns out, you can pay to keep scrolling, and you can pay to see who likes you — and save a lot of time, instead of dating in a cassino. Sure, you won’t lose all your money; but who does the algorithm show your profile to? How do you reverse-engineer this thing, and make sure you’re doing something for your benefit, instead of looking for trouble, which comes with security issues and structural issues in parallel?

The platform has been debated by a series of media productions. Notably, I’d say, Netflix series Sexify puts together a nerd of many sorts, her friend, whose family is traditional to the point of going to Church every Sunday and making her marry a man who’s serving the military, and a girl who’s more “free-spirited”. The latter character, in this particular context of social life, is shown in a scene scrolling Tinder, and it takes her 10 seconds to find a new sex partner. So much for detail.

The criticism is there, but who’s paying attention? Most of the audience for the show might have found it searching for something lighter to watch, and many didn’t expect a production from Poland to pop up in the suggestions. But far from being the central issue (which, further down the series, will be the prospect of work for young people), this portrayal calls everyone’s attention to an appealing context: finding an instant gratification.

Today’s discussions on what we call “creator economy” and what it takes to have social media visibility seem very decentralized. A more careful look at what’s happening in the world of work will take data analysis to the center of debates and explore ethical standards along with the power to measure, accurately and fairly, but according to someone’s imprinted input, the concept of “reputation”. We should all be mindful that the internet doesn’t forget, but also behave so we don’t get suspended — which means the platform is making everyone forget about us. Isn’t there a point of friction somewhere?

Social media visibility is a concept, but it can translate to numbers. What we analyze when we post and wait for feedback is not how much authority we have on a given subject; it might be how attractive people think we are, or how funny, how cool and maybe how woke. We’re all fighting different battles, and most of the time, what bothers you about someone’s activity is simply the fact that you don’t have the time to do the same. You’d love to be heard, but not steal the microphone from a business authority or someone in the political spectrum. Yet, it seems we’re all doing exactly that.

Being knowledgeable and coherent is, for some people, more appealing than the very concept of appeal which we can display by revealing our bodies; but if you combine these with being knowledgeable and coherent, you’re in for troubled navigation of your social environments. This blogger excuses himself to say the expression “brains and booty” is one he’d wear on a t-shirt, but what about big tits? We can’t misrepresent people who are flat, but think about the whole structuring of society. We also shouldn’t think the girls posting on Instagram are intentionally looking for shitty DMs, and to be fair, people have started to choose privacy instead a long time ago. Except, of course, public people. Is that what “being knowledgeable” is?

Being in the public eye for everyone’s scrutiny can mean two things: your face and body are gonna be judged, or your words and arguments. No your instead of “you’re”. No typos, ever. And honestly, when we look at it like that, it feels like we’re not in the realm of personal branding anymore, but rather, in the realm of business and public relations (two very different areas). To contextualize, we can all agree that certain figures will make a great brand ambassador, though it’s debatable now what happened to Kanye West and Adidas; but imagine if it was someone in the likes of António Guterres who wore a sweater. For lack of a better word, that would make most people “cringe”.

Overall, it can be said that social media visibility is good for brands and also people. But the analysis (and time available for that) will vary, not just because people aren’t brands; brands and people alike are using a common platform. And that is more of a technical aspect. If we want to understand what our role in society is, it matters to look around. That can be done on either an app like Tinder or, in case you still believe that’s possible, on Twitter (and we’ll always miss believing it, some of us).

What the platforms are saying about us, though, seems to have more veracity than both what we say on platforms and what we say about them. It’s great to say what you came here for. But every now and then, we turn on the news and we tune in to see what we should avoid. Whether the advice of not becoming the story is valid or not, nobody wants people talking behind their backs; but they want to feel seen. Business accounts on social media are still navigating that, and along with the people who run it, how much visibility they’ll get will depend on a series of factors — some of which are not in our hands. Like the people paying for Tinder, companies pay for good press. And we’re still far from understanding how much money is being spent on that alone.

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