The Dangers of Influencer Marketing
What do you know about influencer marketing?
Research shows that Gen-Z trusts digital content from influencers more than they trust messages directly from brands, and brands have taken notice, pumping billions of dollars into the influencer marketing industry. Influencer marketing is everywhere on social media. According to a study by Influencer Marketing Hub, in 2018 an estimated 24.2 million posts on social media were brand-sponsored influencer marketing posts.
Unlike traditional advertisements that we are used to seeing on billboards, during the commercial breaks of our favorite shows and nestled in the glossy pages of magazines, paid influencer marketing is often trickier to pick out from regular social media posts.
Brands seek out influencers who have often built up a following and name recognition by posting photos, videos, blogs, or sharing stories about their interests. When your favorite Instagram account that normally posts fitness tips and healthy recipes makes a post about an amazing new “Fit Tea” they’ve been loving, it would be easy to assume they’re innocently sharing yet another product they love. However, products like “Fit Teas” and “Skinny Shakes” have proliferated the Instagram marketing world, showing up everywhere from the feeds of fitness influencers to the feeds of household celebrities like Cardi B and the Karshashians.
Putting health on the line:
Unfortunately, in the case of these diet products specifically, influencers are taking advantage of the trust they have built up with young, impressionable followers, to sell products that could have a direct and negative affect on their health.
Many of the fitness and detox products peddled by influencers have been proven to contain ingredients that act as diuretics and laxatives. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that long term ingestion of Senna, an ingredient commonly found in these shakes, can cause bowel dysfunction and laxative dependency, heart function disorders, muscle weakness, liver damage and other harmful effects.
Not all bad:
Don’t misunderstand, not all social media influencers are bad. At Smart Girl Society, we are not anti-technology, but we are for empowering smart choices online. That goes for teens, parents, companies, brands, and influencers.
What you can do:
When you see an influencer you like and follow on social media posting about a product, take a second to think about why they are posting about that product. Look for an indication as to whether the post is sponsored. According to rules, in the United States the post must state somewhere that the post is a paid promotion. It may be marked as “#ad, #sponsor, #partner,” or influencers may say something vague like “Thank you to [brand name] for working with me on this post.”
Any time you see a post about a vitamin, health supplement or detox product, remember that you shouldn’t add these kinds of things into your diet without consulting with your doctor first.
Sit down with your teen and ask them about the kinds of people and accounts they like to follow. What kinds of interests and hobbies are these people posting about? Ask your teen if any of these influencer posts ever make them feel like they need to change themselves or make an improvement to their physical appearance, eating habits, or other daily routines. If so, do any of those posts offer a product or service that will help them quickly achieve that goal? Remind your teen that when it comes to things like health supplements, it’s important to always check with a parent and doctor before adding those items into their diet. If you do notice a change in behavior in your child as a result of a product, contact a healthcare professional immediately.
Remember that although influence might be power, that power comes with a great responsibility. Just like we like to encourage students to educate themselves on the effects of their digital usage, influencers need to realize who they are influencing and how they are influencing them. Whether you have someone running your social media for you or not, look at your target audience and who is actually engaging in your posts. Are these followers young impressionable teens? If so, you may need to rethink your content. Have you promoted any products on your account that you don’t wholeheartedly 100% endorse? The next time you promote a product, service or business on your account, think about its effect on your followers. Have you done the research to back up what you are saying in your post? Even if someone is paying you to be an ambassador or to promote a certain product, if you don’t believe in what that product stands for (its message, its brand, its results), and you can’t endorse its effects on your followers, than is the money really worth it? Probably not.
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