A number of unusual vending machines selling “likes” have appeared in Moscow, targeting the younger generation who are conscious about impressing others via their digital profiles. Despite the novel concept, or perhaps even because of it, the business is likely to have a substantial niche carved out for them, as the popularity of social networks shows no signs of slowing down.
In Moscow city centre, Instagram users have spotted a new vending machine which offers consumers the chance to purchase subscribers or ‘likes’ for their posts on the country’s popular social networks VK and Instagram. 100 new subscribers costs RUB 100 (US$ 1.8), while 100 likes costs 50 RUB (US$ 0.9). This unusual and novel business model reflects consumers’ increasing desire to impress others, fuelled by the ever growing importance of social networks. GlobalData’s 2016 Q3 Consumer Survey found that 62% of global consumers aged 18-24 and 65% of those aged 25-34 consider enhancing their social recognition status to be important or very important. As digital media has become a staple part of young adult consumers daily routines, social networks have become a ‘must-have’ tool for consumers to impress their peers and convey their aspired image and social status. In fact, GlobalData’s Consumer Survey 2015 Q4 found that, globally, 20% of consumers share a picture of themselves on social media once a week or more often, with the numbers among younger generations being even higher – 30% among consumers aged 18-34.
With these consumers constantly marketing themselves online, their self-consciousness and desire for online success is also rising too. As per Global Data’s 2016 Q4 Consumer Survey, 48% and 44% of those aged 18-24 and 25-34, respectively, agree that social media has made them more conscious about their appearance. The ‘like-machine’ plays to this desire for perceived success and popularity in front of friends and colleagues without the need to turn to shadier internet means of buying more likes.
This real or perceived pressure to impress others with their looks, lifestyles and even food choices, has resulted in consumers being much more concerned about numbers of followers, how their social media profile is seen, and digital reactions (such as ‘likes’ or smiley faces) to what they post. Buying ‘likes’ and subscribers cheaply is an easy path to take to enhance one’s perceived digital image. Despite some misgivings online, the business is well placed to be popular amongst younger consumers, particularly in metropolitan areas, and it would be no surprise to see this business model appear in other developed economies in the near future.