Influencers: Is cashing in on paid ads okay?


Influencers are becoming an increasingly accepted aspect of our social media lives. But is that a good thing?

We’ve all seen knock-off celebs promoting teeth whitening strips and weight loss teas, but what you might not realise is these celebs – or influencers as they like to call themselves – get paid tens of thousands of pounds from companies for a single post advertising a product.

The biggest platform for influencer marketing is Instagram. Last year saw a whopping 12.9 million brand sponsored influencer posts. And that number is estimated to double in 2018, creating an estimated market size of nearly $1.7billion.

These figures are great for businesses who want their product to reach bigger audiences, but it has recently been released that The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Watchdog are looking into whether consumers are being “misled” by so-called social media influencers.

That led George Lusty, the CMA’s senior director for consumer protection, to say: “It’s really important that followers are clearly told whether a celebrity is promoting a product because they have bought it themselves, or because they have been paid or thanked in some way by the brand.”

Shopping habits of millions can be changed when products are posted on social media, so when influencers claim ‘their lives have been changed’ it can make people think they NEED that product.

This is clearly subversive – especially when you start straying into controversial subjects that have an impact on physical and mental health.

Kim Kardashian’s infamous Instagram post advertising appetite suppressant lollipops is a distasteful example.

Kardashian did put #ad in the post, showing that she had been paid to advertise the product, but in many people’s eyes, admitting you’re being funded to promote an item clearly linked to eating disorders to your largely young, largely female audience is, at best, irresponsible.

There is the other side of it of course.

Many celebrities use their influence for the greater good. Alice Liveing, an Instagram health and wellness influencer, uses her platform to post workout videos as well as lifestyle posts.

She clearly states when a post is paid advertising or not and usually the partnerships she partakes in clearly relate to her health and wellness brand. For example, when advertising her Flahavans oats partnership she includes a recipe to help inspire people to make a healthy snack.

So clearly it can be used responsibly – but that’s not always the case.

Sure we’d love for people to take that responsibility seriously, but unless someone has Kim’s number, we’re not sure how to tell her.

Just keep in mind when you’re flicking through IG, just because a celebrity endorses something, it doesn’t mean you have to have it.

It just means they’re getting paid a hell of a lot of money to say you should.

Have you come across negative influencing whilst scrolling through Instagram? We’d love to hear from you, so drop us a line at hello@orfimedia.com or get in touch over social media @orfimedia.

Elise Milburn

Social Media Intern at Orfi Media. Content creator day in day out!