The Power Of Social Media

We are in the age of social media, there has been much debate as to what the power of social media is, but can anyone actually deny the power it has to influence people?

The birth of the influencer... according to Pixlee, a social media influencer is a user of social media who has established credibility in a specific industry, they have access to a large audience and can persuade others by their authenticity and reach. A new report by Fullscreen & Shareablee, (published on March 28, 2018) shows just how powerful an influencer is. The report explains that “Almost half (42%) of 18-34 year olds report trying a product recommended by an influencer, and more than one-quarter (26%) say they have actually made a purchase based on a recommendation.”

But how does that effect tourism and the environment?

People choose and plan their destinations based on what is currently trending on social media, people plan day trips based on recommendations and the imagery they see online. For Example: The town of Geelong, Victoria; saw a massive spike in social media posts in September 2018 with an increase of posts where people trespassed into canola fields. Upon seeing those images on social media, it became ‘trendy’ to replicate the same images on their feed. Using geotags followers could plan day trips to the region in the hope of replicating those images seen online before them.

But What Are we actually Creating?

Social media is drawing us to locations, we have the ability to save images into folders as inspiration and trip wish lists and places to visit. Some of the locations are beautiful beyond belief, some are famous landmarks.. They are famous because they hold historical and cultural values, they maybe a natural wonder, a man-made spectacle, and or hold enigmatic significance. But seeing those images, your first instinct is I want to see that location for myself, and get my own personal postcard, just like all the visitors before. It becomes the fear of missing out philosophy (FOMO).

Wikipedia defines FOMO as “"a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent". This social anxiety is characterized by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing". FOMO is also defined as a fear of regret, which may lead to a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, a profitable investment, or other satisfying events”.

Instagram has created bucket list photographs and locations that people feel an overwhelming desire to replicate and visit. The images are no longer dragged out for family slide shows or hidden away in dust covered family photo albums, they are online for the world to see, and continually fuel human ego.

But are we just producing bucket list images?

In an interview with Australian Landscape Photographer Ken Duncan, Ken stated “Too many people are shooting postcards! They go on these trips and they all take the same photos. Its like they tick the box. Lets go visit this location... tick, I just got a photo from that location... tick. What I am trying to do is cross all those things off my box! I don’t want to know about a photo like that anymore. If I see a photo now its like nice postcard. I want to go out and find what’s underneath that.”

Photography is Booming! (Source: Statista)

One only needs to look at the Instagram Account - INSTA_REPEAT to see exactly how far we have taken our bucket list image extremes to. I am sure we have all seen the images before that flood our social media feeds, the images that have become outright Instagram trends. Instagram’s algorithm pushes certain types of images to the top of your feed because they naturally get the most attention. Epic landscapes. Colorful sunsets. Famous attractions. Bikini bottoms on white sand beaches.

“Even if you want to see other kinds of photography, the algorithm makes it difficult, because those images get buried at the bottom of your feed. While you can certainly ignore the algorithm, and post whatever the hell you want, those photos most likely won’t be seen by your followers. So people who are trying to “make it big” on Instagram and get the most likes and followers — keep posting the same damn things over and over again, because they work. It’s a vicious cycle that leads to the repetition of un-inspiring images that you’ve already seen 100 times before.” says Matt Karsten (via expertbagabond)


Wanting to test the power of Instagram and social media, I decided to create an experiment to see what would happen. The results would even surprise me.

This location is highly shot along the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia. Generating new content at such locations can be very very difficult, most of the compositions have in some way or another been shot, so I wanted to see what would happen if I was to create a new composition and a new point of interest, could it result in a trend.

On the 15th June 2018, I decided to blend two images together from the Great Ocean Road but different locations and post them to social media and see what the reaction would be. Normally I average around 400-450 likes on posts, I don’t have a massive influencer social media account, but my followers are all organic. Within the next 24 hours it receive more than:

  • More than 750 likes,

  • 1437 Reach (number of unique accounts that have seen my post)

  • 1769 Impressions (total number of times my post has been seen)

  • 27 new followers (number of account that started following me)

  • 13 profile visits (number of times profile was viewed from this post)

  • 7 post saves (number of times post was saved to users account)

  • 18 private messages.

The private messages received were from accounts asking for in all cases the location. I did not geotag the image, nor hashtag the location which in some instances annoying some people that they needed to take the time to message me to ask where the location was. The others that knew the location (general) wanted me to mark on a map the exact location of where the cave could be found.

In fact in the next few days following my post some instagrammers found other caves in a similar location, but further around the coast. I had never explored further around as the tides change in this location rapidly and you can find yourself pinned in locations, but also the recent evidence that the cliffs have slipped.