Behind the glitz and glam of social media, ever wondered how influencers affect our reality? Let’s have an understanding about the psychology of covert content.
The creative influencers that capture our feelings without our awareness.
The Psychology of Covert Content and How Influencers Make Use of It
Burly, heavily bearded, and permanently decked out in construction gear, you might expect to see Omar holding a hammer, rather than an iPhone. And yet his Instagram is more active than the average high schooler. His pictures pop up with stunning frequency: on a construction site, drinking coffee, back on a construction site again.
In many ways, he’s the antithesis of a social media influencer. In one post, he details how he started his account just to playfully “compete” with his too-cool teenage daughter. He lists “lifestyle influencer” on his profile sarcastically. But to the tune of nearly 500,000 followers, Omar (@justaconstructionguy) is an Instagram sensation and another citizen in the world of micro-celebrities.
The only problem is that Omar, as the internet grew to know and love him, is a complete fabrication.
The account is the creation of Mike McKim, the owner of Austin’s Cuvée Coffee. Together with Bandolier Media, they created “Omar” in the image of the brand — a blue-collar and hard-working anti-influencer. The man featured in the posts was compensated for the photoshoots but had no autonomy over the account itself. And while some of Omar’s posts include other hashtags to poke fun at influencers, the creator brand @cuveecoffee is also specifically tagged in several posts on the page.
Ironically, he isn’t the self-professed antithesis of influencer marketing but rather the crystallization of it.
What to make of Omar? There’s a lot that can be said. Was he real in the sense that people thought he was real and found enjoyment in following his life? Was he real in the sense that he represented a real idea?
What is Omar? In a word, Omar is a strategy. He is a perfect embodiment of a new wave of creating, mining, and monetizing social influence. And he’s just the beginning.
Influencer Marketing: A Quick 2-Year History
To understand how we got to Omar, we have to go back in time to 2017 — eons ago in the breakneck pace of the influencer world. Influencer marketing was established and the number of micro-celebrities was growing quickly. All this growth brought attention from regulators. Many worried about its prospects when the Federal Trade Commission began watching influencers’ practices more carefully.
The FTC soon discovered that nearly 93% of influencers are not properly disclosing their endorsements, and in April, they started formally cracking down serving notifications to both brands and influencers.
When these regulations hit the fan, many thought this was the beginning of the end. In retrospect, it represented the beginning of a new era. With the FTC keeping a close watch, content that directly discusses the product or even uses it too easily could arouse suspicion. Now the influencers had an incentive to be sneaky, to give the brand exposure without looking like you’re trying to give the brand exposure.
If Jay-Z and Beyonce go on vacation and post a pic with a Corona bottle in the background of the shot, we may never know if it’s a paid post or Corona just happened to be lucky enough to be in the vicinity and get free exposure. The content has the same effect on the FTC as it does on the masses. You can’t tell what’s real and what’s an ad.
The age of covert content was born.
The Science of Exposure
You might be asking yourself, well if the influencer isn’t actually promoting the product in their picture (hell, some seem like they don’t even know it’s there), how can this possibly be helpful to the brand? Here’s where the neuromarketing perspective comes in. Even if the influencer isn’t actively promoting the product, it still has a major impact.
In fact, the impact is actually enhanced, not hindered if we don’t think it’s an explicit ad. Marketing works best when you don’t know you are being marketed to.