Instagram & Celebrity Promotions
It seems like nowadays, almost everyone our age follows at least a couple of celebrities on Instagram, Twitter, or some other type of social media platform. They provide us regular folk with a chance to get an entertaining glance into their dramatic lives, and there are often opportunities for funny new memes to arise. And also, they introduce us to a multitude of new products and services that we never knew we (did not) need in our lives.
As it turns out, the world of marketing through celebrity promotions on Instagram and other social media platforms is a lot more complicated that I feel like most people probably believe them to be.
This all started when my roommates and I were discussing the Bachelor episode last week. We had gotten on to the topic of how former Bachelor contestants who become famous enough to be considered “public figures” seem to have an endless array of products they promote on their Instagram accounts. From sunglasses to tequilas to fashion, their sponsored posts seemed endless. For some of these former contestants, there are so many of these posts that they seem to turn their accounts into nothing more than a series of promotional advertisements. And it made me think, why would anyone want that for himself or herself? The obvious answer, of course, is money.
But as I looked into this phenomenon some more, I became increasingly shocked by my discovery of the amount of money that some of these so-called “celebrities” are able to make from doing nothing more than pressing a few buttons on their iPhones. Essentially, promoting products through social media can become their main source of income. That was a realization that I found incredibly interesting, albeit also concerning at the same time. Because while this all seemed pretty cool to some degree, there was something about the scale of it that bothered me too.
First of all, the amount of money public figures can make through a single Instagram post is a little absurd, in my opinion. As told in the article here, Guess How Much…,an Instagram account that has three-to-seven million followers can charge as much as $75,000 per endorsement on Instagram or Snapchat, and a celebrity with 50,000-to-500,000 followers might make $1,000 for a post on Instagram or Snapchat.
This type of advertising has been around social media for a long time now, but I had never before taken a look at the numbers behind this type of business strategy. And it looks like it really is the highlight of low costs with high returns. After all, paying a public figure $1000 to tell 500,000 people about your product is a relatively cheap but still extremely widespread marketing effort. The rewards for a business to implement this strategy well can truly be enormously large.
I then also took a look into how there are actually a variety of legal issues that have been intertwined with celebrity promotions and their potentially unclear messages to consumers. Subtlety, in this context, is not at all a good thing. For example, the article “FTC to Crack Down on Paid Celebrity Posts That Aren’t Clear Ads” (FTC to Crack Down…) discusses how celebrities raving about various consumer products on their personal social media accounts can quite easily attract the Federal Trade Commission’s attention. Since these social media posts are oftentimes unclear about whether or not the celebrity was paid for his or her endorsement of the product, issues of consumer deception and deceptive advertising can arise. For example, Lord & Taylor got into trouble with the FTC after Instagram posts the company had paid fashion influencers to create failed to disclose in the posts that the company had paid and given these people the products for free in exchange for the marketing. The reason this is so important is because the influence of public figures is immense, and it is necessary to ensure that their influence over so many people is not being taken advantage of. Fans often take what a celebrity says to be 100% truth, and therefore, a little extra consumer protection is necessary. After all, the FTC has, found that when consumers know that a celebrity has been paid and given a product for free, that knowledge alters the public perception of that social media post. It is, unfortunately, true that better disclosure about advertising would almost certainly make the posts less impactful on consumers – and therefore, companies may have a strong incentive to keep their celebrity social media advertisements more ambiguous than regulators would like. This is just one example of the many legal problems involved in this matter.
Overall, it would seem that there is a lot more going on with celebrity product endorsements on social media than I had originally thought. I know that I will definitely be giving future ads a second look now.