OMG. LOL. SELFIE. Thanks to the internet, new words are constantly emerging and being added to the Oxford English Dictionary at an increasing speed. Today, I stumbled across a new one while browsing the New Statesmen: "astroturfing" or, in the verb form, "to astroturf".
To astroturf is to mask the author of a message to make it appear to have come from the grass roots. Messages created by brands, politicians and even the military are disguised as comments made by the public. To demonstrate the scale of the astroturfing trend, it has been estimated that a third of all consumer reviews online are fake.
On the topic of strategic influencing, a US marketing agency recently secured brand sponsorship deals for two fictitious social media influencers, after acquiring a following for their Instagram accounts for less than $300 (£231). The experiment questions whether a bought audience can be claimed as a genuine audience, and therefore, if an influencer is taking money to advertise a product, are they committing advertising fraud? It suggests that brands need to be more aware of the issue when looking for quick entry into the influencer marketing space.
I have always been incredibly sceptical when reading reviews of products online or when an Instagrammer recommends her favourite new detox tea, and for good reason, as it seems everyone is faking it to some extent. Whether it's brands falsifying comments to influence or influencers deceiving brands, consumers are being hoodwinked left, right and centre. Perhaps we all need to take a step back and see the lawn for the fake blades of grass...
“GIRLS U NEED TO READ THIS,” reads a tweet by a handsome teenage boy named Ashton, who tweets the same words everyday, followed by crying and heart emojis. Ashton lives to promote the book of a 19-year-old self-published author from Sheffield – or, at least, he would, if he lived at all. Ashton is fake, a profile designed to make the book seem popular. Many teenage girls have been duped by this. One told me: “I felt very cheated out of my money and my time.” In China, the “50 Cent Army” are astroturfers who are allegedly paid a small fee for each positive post they write about the Chinese Communist Party. And in 2011, it emerged that the US military was developing an “online persona management service” to spread pro-American messages, allowing one person to manage multiple online identities.