Whoa There, Influencers, It’s Time for a Reality Check

It’s starting to look like 2019 is the year social media gets a beat-down and a shake-up. From Apple blocking an internal Facebook app to calls for increased regulation on social platforms, it appears the public has finally had it.

“The calls for greater social media regulation grew louder in January, as Sir Nick Clegg gave his first public interview since joining Facebook,” writes Jamie Gavin in FIPP. “The former UK Deputy Prime Minister, now vice-president for Global Affairs and Communications for the social media giant, spoke to the BBC’s media editor following the death of 14-year-old British schoolgirl, Molly Russell, who tragically took her own life after being exposed to self-harm and suicide content on Instagram.”

While it remains to be seen what, exactly, Facebook plans to do about self-regulation (call me skeptical), at least the debate has gone public. Not only have consumers had enough; the ad industry says the gig is up too.

Gavin points out one more area that is trending this year – the push toward greater transparency around celebrity endorsements.

“In the UK, sixteen celebrities have agreed to show greater transparency on social media, by making it explicitly clear when they are posting sponsored content,” Gavin writes, explaining the groundswell push for more responsible sponsorship.

As Gen Z kids become more vocal about influencer marketing on social media (one teen called social media “exhausting and overwhelming” due to the standards it pushes on young people), we see some celebrity influencers apparently taking a more responsible position.

“Artists like Rita Ora and Ellie Goulding have told the government that they will now clearly state if they have been paid – or received gifts – to endorse goods on social media posts,” Gavin continues.

Before we get all congratulatory toward their stance on this, be aware that the CMA told them to do so, warning them they were breaking consumer protection laws by not doing so. The crackdown comes after a months’ long investigation into the infamous Fyre Festival and the role that paid social influencers played in the fiasco.

So while the last few years have seen some truly remarkable debacles, it appears that maybe 2019 is going to be a reset year, where we can clean up some of the debris polluting the digital media wasteland and start to imagine a new way to co-exist online.