Back when outdoor marketplaces were the norm, some dishonest business-owners would use weights that were heavier or lighter than they looked to overcharge customers.These business-owners would steal and deceive unknowing consumers. It’s glaringly obvious that what they did was unethical.
Fast forward a few hundred years. Deception in business is everywhere. Overcharging customers, avoiding taxes, and not giving proper change are common ways that businesses can be conducting themselves unethically. But that only remains the case for physical storefronts, right?… Wrong.
Many businesses today require little to no physical products or presence. Food bloggers, fashion bloggers, beauty bloggers and travel bloggers are among many jobs that just need a camera and some marketing skills. Bloggers, also known as influencers, often receive items and/or payment to promote a product or service to their followers.
Not long ago, I read an article by a friend of mine that accused bloggers of being unethical (click here to read the article).
It was strongly worded and painted bloggers as greedy and inconsiderate. As a new blogger, I was offended and vehemently disagreed with the negative light that was shed on bloggers, but as I read further, I could see why she was so angry. The author explained how the Federal Trade Commission has clear guidelines for bloggers, making it necessary to disclose when items are gifted. The FTC believes that bloggers often deceive their followers by not making it clear when they have been given something at no charge or are not clear when they are being paid to promote an item.
I scroll through various influencer accounts, larger and smaller than mine and I laugh. I laugh at how pathetic it is that so many in our community choose to deceive unknowing followers into purchasing things, albeit pretending that the items they were promoting were purchased. It’s a shame that those who believe in torah and justice are so blinded by their career that they do not see the deception they are conducting in their own businesses.
Based on my personal experiences as well as observing how businesses and other bloggers conduct their accounts, here’s what I’ve concluded:
- There are businesses who want to dodge the FTC guidelines, since they believe transparency is bad for business. I recall numerous times when companies asked me to take down hashtags such as #collab or #ad because “it doesn’t work with my business model” or “it’s not an ad, it a product review”. I no longer work with businesses who choose to lie to their clientele.
- There are those who ignore the protocol simply because it’s unlikely they’ll get caught by the FTC. The government does not have the time or manpower to scour through millions of profiles and posts to find a blogger with less than a million followers to see if they’re following the rules. “If I don’t get caught, what’s the harm? Ethics isn’t that important right?”
- If a blogger receives an item for free, they must disclose that explicitly in their post. Just saying “thank you X brand” is not a disclosure, it’s simply being polite and is not clear to their followers. It is very rare that I see proper disclosure.
- There are profiles that are very good at disclosing sponsored posts. Some of these profiles, however, are deceptive in other ways. It is, unfortunately, a common practice for accounts to purchase fake followers, likes and comments. This in turn deceives companies into thinking that the influencer is more successful than they actually are. I find this to be even more unethical. Not only are they deceiving their followers, they are deceiving the companies that are paying them to advertise to a non existent audience.
- When there is a lack of ethics on social media, there is a lack of faith that G-d provides for us. Instagram, companies or followers do not provide bloggers with money or free stuff, G-d does. No amount of dresses, wigs or fancy dinners will come with you in the afterlife. The only thing that comes along is your actions.
Many are afraid to abide by these rules. Fear that they will lose business or popularity by being honest. I believe that dishonesty and being unethical runs the greater risk.
Websites like influencermarketinghub.com allow anyone to check the authenticity of followers and likes on public accounts with over 1,000 followers. It’s disheartening to see accounts of people in our community be so fake.
Fortunately, there are bloggers who are standing up for complete transparency. Not partial, but complete and total authenticity. It encourages me to believe that people can change, and that integrity trumps making a buck or getting something for free.
I have faith that followers can make informed decisions, and learn to ask questions, like “is this an ad?” or “did he/she pay for this”? I believe that the more informed the clientele is, the less room there is for deception.
I can’t tell you that this article will make a change in the influencer world, it probably won’t, but perhaps it can get you, the consumer to think twice, take action, demand ethical behavior and surround yourself with positive influencers.
For more information on the FTC guidelines, click here
I’d like to thank the US Government and the FTC for sponsoring this post and sending me a free coffee cup. #notreally