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Influencing the Influencers

The importance of promoting brands and products on digital platforms has continued to grow as advertisers are learning how to use social media to reach out to specific populations by harnessing the power and goodwill of the people on these platforms that are popular with and influence particular niche groups of interest. These so-called “influencers” can have thousands, or even millions and tens of millions of followers. But when is the influencer an objective critic, and when is she a paid spokesperson?

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The importance of promoting brands and products on digital platforms has continued to grow as advertisers are learning how to use social media to reach out to specific populations by harnessing the power and goodwill of the people on these platforms that are popular with and influence particular niche groups of interest. These so-called “influencers” can have thousands, or even millions and tens of millions of followers, and be popular both broadly and within a segment such as C++ software engineers. These influencers might organically discuss a product or brand if they like it, but advertisers may also seek them out to leverage their social media presence (on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) to endorse or promote a product for some form of consideration. Therein lies the issue: When is the influencer an objective critic, and when is she a paid spokesperson? Obviously, the consumer will weigh the credibility, objectivity and veracity of the two types of speech differently, as they would treat the distinction between any other types of commercial and editorial speech. Only here, unlike on TV, it is more difficult to tell commercial verses editorial messages apart.

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