Singaporean Instagram individual Melissa Koh has been found publicly selling products that companies have been seeding her to promote on her Instagram account.
The issue isn’t new, since such influencers publicly market products and services to their audience in exchange for money, but to do so with products provided in exchange for posts or short Instastories seems rather tacky and tasteless.
That’s like hearing about a Rolling Stone music reviewer selling the CDs provided free by music companies, a tech reviewer for say Verge or CNET selling a seeded smartphone after the review is completed, or a video game reviewer from IGN listing the copy of Mortal Kombat 11 for sale on eBay.
It’s tasteless and tacky, and not a reflection of a profession that demands trust and honesty to its audience.
Based on industry chatter, we do know there are some instances where it is all right to sell items. Say it’s part of a media kit, and you get sent items that you didn’t request for, but are part of a PR outreach. Say a make-up company sends over some new products that the influencer doesn’t use or a portable speaker that’s not meant for review. Maybe it’s a pair of tickets to a movie you’ve already seen.
For Koh, who shot to the wider public eye with her heavily sponsored wedding where the freebies weren’t disclosed to the guests, the practice seems to be her MO – get sponsorship, and gain money in exchange or in lieu.
In this case, she was presented with an LG gaming monitor, which she did a short post for in April 2019.
Despite her post on it, for being thankful for the product, as it helps her multitask and gets more done, she didn’t like it enough to keep it, as she is selling it.
Another way of disposing of an item? Offer it as a prize in a contest, or donate it to someone or an organisation that needs it more?
It makes you wonder though – does she really like the services and other products she has shared?
What we do know is that Ms Koh approached LG for this monitor sometime last year, and this is the end result.
Like, does she really really get her alcohol stash from Changi?
Did anyone buy this OLED TV from her?
And what’re her real thoughts on Deliveroo vs Food Panda and Grab Food?
Her post on selling the monitor really got to us because we love our tech.
At this juncture, Instagram is relooking its platform, and wants to hide the number of Likes that each post has garnered. In a blog post, Facebook, which owns Instagram said, “We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.”
Given that Instagram is one of the few platforms that has third-party developers who readily sell follower counts, bots that add comments and other artificial means to boost followers and engagement, the removal of Likes will severely undermine an Instagramer’s ability to show how well-received a post can or will be, as well as how popular an influencer really is.
Facebook knows it, and this is their way of limiting the spread of fake engagements. Brands will also re-evaluate their marketing strategy, to determine their use of influencers.
If you want to know how real an Instagramer’s follower count is, there are also Instagram audit services that identify if a follower count is authentic. Try searching for Ms Koh account on any of them.
IG Audit is one of them.
Things are changing in the influencer/key opinion leader landscape, and with platforms clamping down on fake Likes and false engagement, the only thing that we as online platforms have, is our reputation.
There’s selling out, and there’s selling integrity or a monitor, for a price.