Thursday, June 14, 2018

Social Media and Adventure -- Crowds, Posers, Fakes, and Death

In the past 10 years, social media has become a huge part of our world. There are so many options: Facebook; Instagram; Twitter; Pinterest; Snapchat; and others. I didn't use any of these tools during my big adventure running days between 2006 and 2011. However, many adventurers are using these social media platforms to share details about their endeavors. I know that social media has contributed to the increase in interest of running or walking across America -- with more people taking on the challenge each year.

However, there is a negative effect of providing a social media window into adventures. For instance, Trolltunga is a cliff above Lake Ringedalsvatnet in Norway. The photo accompanying this post is a stock image, but apparently there is a long line of hikers waiting their turn for this iconic 'alone in the wilderness' image. National Geographic published an article about how Instagram is changing travel and in it is written, "Between 2009 and 2014, visitors to Trolltunga increased from 500 to 40,000 in what many consider a wave of social media-fueled tourism." The location has become so popular due to social media that being "alone" there is nearly impossible.

True adventurers have criticized those who post photos on social media of "adventures" that are not actually being done. As an example, a person may post a picture of climbing a mountain just so that others can see them on a mountainside, but did they actually make it to the top? Were they on the side of the mountain for a selfie opportunity or because they were truly engaged in an adventure? Social media is filled with 'posers.'

Unfortunately, it is well documented that there have been many adventurers killed as a result of trying to get an outrageous photo. In 2014, Clif Bar stopped sponsoring five rock climbers known for climbing without ropes or safety gear. Sadly, ordinary people have been enticed by risky adventurous images to try stunts they don’t have the skills for, and have died as a result.

Perhaps the most outrageous part of this is that not everything you see of adventures via social media are true. Case in point -- the "Amanda Smith" Instagram account, which has been discontinued. Marketing agency Mediakix did a test to see if anyone can fake an adventurous Instagram account and build followers to the point of attracting sponsorship dollars. The agency created a fictitious Instagram account for "Amanda Smith" (wanderingggirl). The entire feed was composed of free stock photos of random places across the world and blonde girls, always posing facing away from the camera.

After setting up the fake personality and generating content, the agency started purchasing followers (yes, apparently you can do that). They started with buying 1,000 followers per day and ultimately jumped to purchasing 15,000 followers at a time. The cost? Between $3-$8 per 1,000. Essentially, if the followers don’t like or comment on posts, they’re kind of worthless. So the next step was for the agency to purchase fake engagement -- buying likes and comments. Mediakix paid about 12 cents per comment, and between $4-9 per 1,000 likes. For each photo, they purchased 500 to 2,500 likes and 10 to 50 comments. The entire experiment ended up costing Mediakix about $300 for the "wanderingggirl" Instagram account. After the account reached 10,000 followers (the threshold amount for signing up on most influencer marketing platforms), Mediakix started applying for sponsorship deals -- securing two paid brand deals for the wanderingggirl account. Before the account was closed it had over 64,000 followers... and it was completely fake!

So, don't believe everything you see about "adventurers" on social media. Unfortunately, sometimes they're posers or are not real at all.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com