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By B.L. Ochman @whatsnext

Influencer marketing is often called one of marketer’s most valued tools. However, the emergence of “medical influencers” can he harmful to our health.

Influencers on Instagram are marketing medications and medical devices for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Most noteworthy: they’re not always making it clear that they’re paid for their endorsements

These endorsements from medical influencers give their millions of followers the suggestion they could be as healthy and beautiful as the influencers, if they use these products.

Depending on the size of their following, influencers are paid an estimated $1,000 per 100,000 followers. Instead of print or broadcast ads, companies believe they can benefit from the candor and storytelling on influencers’ feeds.   

Clearly, it’s time for a much closer look at what and how influencers are hawking.

Who’s regulating medical influencers? You are!

Most importantly, regulation is not exactly happening, explains Suzanne Zuppello, in a recent Vox article.  The FTA and the FTC rely on consumers to report non-compliant ads, according to the FTC Advertising Practices Division.

“Using influencers to sell products to the sick can be a particularly insidious form of marketing in large part because of the vague parameters set by the FTC and FDA,” Zuppello says. After all, most consumers certainly aren’t experts in federal advertising guidelines. Nor should we need to be!

One influencer, who is compensated by a variety of brands outside of healthcare and preferred not to be named due to existing partnerships, told Zuppello that some influencers “bury the #sponsored tag deep in the copy or shorten it to #spon, despite the FTC guideline for disclosures to be “clear and conspicuous.” Here’s an example where the sponsorship is not mentioned by a medical influencer:

In this example, the terms “Sponsored” #Sponsored #Spon are not mentioned

Here’s an example where Sponsorship is clearly mentioned.

Consequences? Not Really.

Although the FDA and FTC are regulatory agencies, they don’t fully police their own guidelines, because they don’t have the resources to comb millions of posts to determine which are paid advertisements and whether they’re compliant.

Also scary: there are no real or immediate consequences for influencers omitting information required by the regulatory agencies, especially since every post isn’t reviewed. And even when non-compliant posts are cited, the company, not the influencers, is held responsible.

Important to remember: influencing is a job influencers that are paid to perform. Think about that before you click.

Related: The Global State of Influencer Marketing 2019