Who is to blame when influencers endorse dodgy products?

Who is to blame when influencers endorse dodgy products?

Being asked to take part in a paid campaign is an exciting milestone for many content creators, but promoting products or services you know little about can leave you vulnerable to criticism. We investigate whether brands or influencers are to blame when potentially dangerous products are endorsed on social media.

As a content creator, working with your dream brands on social media content can be the best part of the job. Most creators will only promote a product or service that they truly believe in and wouldn’t dream of featuring something that could do harm to their followers. Yet detox teas, supplements and ‘contraception alternatives’ still frequently appear on our Instagram feeds, and the influencers saying yes to these partnerships are damaging the community’s reputation as a whole.

Last week Lauren Goodger tried to defend being caught on camera agreeing to promote a fake drink that had cyanide listed as one of the ingredients. Lauren claimed that she was under the impression that it was just a vitamin water, and that the words she read out to endorse the product were unknown to her. Her willingness to endorse a product without doing any research into its ingredients caused concern on social media, and we decided to investigate whether you feel brands or influencers are more to blame for the promotion of dodgy products.

When it comes to promoting potentially harmful products on social media, 72% of people felt influencers are to blame, rather than the brands who create the products. If influencers do promote potentially harmful products, 85% of people would definitely lose faith in them, with only 3% saying they wouldn’t lose faith in them at all. This shows that it is crucial for creators to do their research before saying yes to collaborations, and put themselves in their followers’ shoes before agreeing to promote products or services that could cause issues for some.

“The data shows that consumers invest trust in influencers to be genuine about the products they’ve tried and recommend,” says Adam Walker, a style blogger and digital marketer.

“Breaking that trust deals a huge blow to how consumers think of the influencer, but not necessarily the brand. For consumers, a brand is a logo but an influencer is a human and that kind of connection is fragile.”

Our data backs this up, with only 67% of people saying they would lose a lot of faith in a brand if they worked with irresponsible influencers and 33% saying they would only lose a little bit of faith in them. As a creator it’s important to always put the connection with your followers first, rather than prioritising what you may want from your content and influence. A brand may face some backlash if they work with the wrong people, but if creators work with the wrong brand they face alienating their audience and damaging their reputations beyond repair.

Interestingly, 10% of those who answered our poll said they have promoted a product or destination without doing any research into potential harm it may cause. This suggests that we may continue to see influencers blindly promoting products and services in the future, putting their audience at risk.

Adam feels it is important that we speak out when influencers endorse potentially dangerous products or services to protect the community and combat the assumption that all creators have the same lack of morals.

“Influencers need to be more vigilant about calling out this kind of bad behaviour from other influencers, otherwise they’ll find themselves tarred with the same brush.”

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