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The Influencer Industry's Wild West: Why We Need Rules

How Guardrails Can Tame the Chaotic World of Social Media Influencers

influencer industry

The influencer industry is like the Wild West, where rules are scarce, and the terrain is unpredictable.

Social media stars can build or break brands overnight, leaving companies either basking in glory or picking up pieces. But with great power comes great responsibility—or at least it should.

Let’s dig into why this booming industry needs some guardrails, illustrated with real case studies and sprinkled with humor.


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The Rise and Rise of Influencers

Influencers are everywhere—Instagram, YouTube, TikTok—you name it. They've become essential to marketing strategies, with brands spending over $13.8 billion on influencer marketing in 2021 alone .

Their power lies in their ability to connect with audiences on a personal level, something traditional ads struggle to achieve. However, the lack of regulation in this industry has led to numerous issues, from fake followers to shady endorsement deals.

Case Study: Fyre Festival Fiasco

Remember the Fyre Festival? The luxury music festival that turned out to be a massive scam? A lot of its hype was driven by influencers like Kendall Jenner, who were paid hefty sums to promote it without disclosing their sponsorships .

The disaster left attendees stranded, hungry, and furious, showcasing the dark side of unregulated influencer marketing.

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Why We Need Guardrails

  1. Transparency: One major issue is transparency. Influencers often fail to disclose when their content is sponsored, misleading their followers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has guidelines, but they’re not always enforced, leading to a murky environment.

  2. Authenticity: Fake followers and engagement are rampant. Studies show that up to 20% of influencer followers are fake, costing brands millions in wasted marketing dollars .

  3. Ethics: Some influencers promote products they don’t believe in or haven't even tried, eroding trust. This is especially concerning in sectors like health and wellness, where misinformation can have serious consequences.

influencer marketing

Real Case Study: Belle Gibson's Fall from Grace

Belle Gibson, a wellness influencer, claimed she cured her cancer with diet and lifestyle changes, gaining a massive following. However, it was later revealed she never had cancer, leading to outrage and legal actions . This case underscores the need for ethical standards and fact-checking in influencer content.

Funny But True: The Egg That Broke Instagram

In a lighter example, a stock photo of an egg became the most-liked post on Instagram, surpassing Kylie Jenner's birth announcement. While this was a harmless prank, it highlighted how easily trends can be manipulated online .

Setting Up the Guardrails

To tame this Wild West, here are a few steps that can be taken:

  • Clear Guidelines: Platforms and regulators need to establish clear, enforceable guidelines for disclosures and endorsements.

  • Verification: Implementing stricter verification processes to weed out fake followers and bots.

  • Accountability: Holding influencers accountable for false claims and unethical promotions.

Conclusion: Steering Towards a Better Future

The influencer industry has immense potential but needs proper guardrails to ensure it remains a trustworthy and effective marketing channel. By fostering transparency, authenticity, and ethics, we can steer this industry towards a brighter future.



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