For young people all over the globe, being a full-time social media influencer has quickly become one of the most desirable career paths due to the possibility of earning significant amounts of money just by uploading photographs to the internet and sharing them with their followers.
Instagram influencers with over a million followers may earn more than $250,000 for each post from sponsors, while Kylie Jenner can earn about $1 million for a single sponsored Instagram post.
Here are some of the strategies used by writer-director Nick Bilton to “take some random folks with a modest following online and transform them into renowned influencers.” (Spoiler alert: the experiment was successful.)
The HBO documentary “Fake Famous” follows three starry-eyed Los Angeles newcomers as they engage in a social experiment aimed to convert ordinary individuals with tiny internet followings become “famous” influencers, illuminating the good and bad of our infatuation with social media.
In the HBO documentary “Fake Famous,” journalist Nick Bilton snaps a picture of Chris Bailey while they are both aboard a fictitious private jet.
- Bilton claims he spent approximately $119.60 on the website Famoid.com to buy approximately 7,500 followers and 2,500 likes for one of the doc’s guinea pigs, the actress Dominique Druckman. Famoid.com is just one of several websites like it that sell fake social media followers in droves.
- According to Bilton, “a bot follower is an algorithm that appears to be a genuine person on the internet.” Bots are computer programs. “Hackers and programmers that build programs that trawl the internet to steal numerous random identities by pilfering people’s images, names, and biographies are the ones who are responsible for creating these bots,”.
- Bilton estimates that there are “hundreds of millions” of bots online, and they can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including spreading false information about U.S. elections by foreign governments and making individuals, including aspiring influencers as well as already famous celebrities, “appear more popular than they really are.”
- The followers that were acquired by Bilton trickle in over the course of a few days so that they are not detected as fake accounts by the social media firms who regularly remove phony accounts from their sites.
- Bilton proceeded to buy bots and likes in order to increase engagement for Druckman, as well as for two other would-be influencers, namely student Wiley Heiner and designer Chris Bailey until she achieved a total of 250,000 followers.
Faking a fabulous lifestyle
- In order to naturally increase the followings of the phony influencers and to garner offers from sponsors for sponsored content, Bilton had photographers take pictures of the subjects in what look to be affluent places, but which are in fact wholly manufactured.
- One of the photo shoots (linked below) took place in Bilton’s Los Angeles backyard, but the resulting images were geotagged to seem to have been taken at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills and the Viceroy resort in Santa Monica.
- In addition, for the picture sessions, we rented out a complete home for the day for something in the neighborhood for $600, and we even used a studio that looked like a private plane for $49.99 an hour.
- According to Bilton, a large number of other influencers who have big followings likewise use deceptive tactics in order to generate social material that is worthy of being followed.
- “In point of fact, if you go online, you can find dozens of guides that will teach you how to give the impression that you are on an extravagant vacation even if you are really staying in your bedroom,” said Bilton. There are even websites and programs that are specifically designed for the purpose of photoshopping phony vacation images for use on social media.
- Natalia Taylor, a YouTube influencer with 2.2 million subscribers, shared a series of photographs on Instagram in 2020 that looked to show her enjoying a lavish vacation at a resort in Bali, Indonesia. However, as she subsequently revealed, the images were shot at her local Ikea as part of a scam she orchestrated to demonstrate that “life on the internet isn’t always what it appears; particularly in this day and age when it’s so simple to pretend to be whoever you want to be.”
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