It's no secret that the pursuit of social media fame can sometimes result in shady practices. Case in point? The group of rising influencers who post fake ads to increase their perceived worth.
As pointed out by The Atlantic, sponsored content wasn't always beneficial to an internet star, as it would often raise questions of credibility; however, as we hear more reports about how lucrative these ads can be, the #SponCon hashtag has become a huge indicator of success; however, not all of the presumed sponsored content is legit, as many rising influencers have adopted the "fake it till you make it" method.
"People know how much influencers charge now, and that payday is nothing to shake a stick at," Fashionista editor in chief Alyssa Vingan Klein told The Atlantic. "If someone who is 20 years old watching YouTube or Instagram sees these people traveling with brands, promoting brands, I don’t see why they wouldn't do everything they could to get in on that."
Though they aren't getting paid by the companies they're promoting, people who use fake ads are still getting something in return: clout. Many people associate a branded content tag with a high level of influence—so high, that some companies are willing to pay up to six-figures for it. So, if an influencer's page contains sponsored content, or what looks like sponsored content, others will assume this influencer is "worth" following. And the more followers one person has, the more likely he/she will get actual paid content offers.
"In the influencer world, it’s street cred," 19-year-old Brian Phanthao told The Atlantic. "The more sponsors you have, the more credibility you have."
Phanthao, a lifestyle influencer based in San Diego, said he was initially "astounded" the kinds of sponsorships his fellow influencers seemingly nabbed. But as he did more research, he discovered that many of these #SponCons were bogus.
Though it's a misleading stunt, The Altantic points out that it is not illegal. While the Federal Trade Commission requires all legitimate sponsored content to be disclosed, there are no rules that prohibit people from suggesting the posts are paid for when they're actually not.
Influencer Taylor Evans explains how she misled followers into believing a recent Miami trip was sponsored, when, in fact, she paid for everything.
"I took a lot of pics at restaurants and posted 'Thanks so much XYZ restaurant for the hospitality!'" she explained. "You say it in a way that people could interpret it as you having an established relationship with that brand … The hope is that it’s perceived in a way that looks like there’s a reason you’re in a different city and state, not just enjoying a weekend vacation."
You can read the full article at The Atlantic's website.