The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the United Kingdom have released guidelines for social media influencers, under the larger umbrella of online advertising. Specific social media platforms, such as Instagram and YouTube, also provide guidelines to their ad policies for businesses and content creators.
Consumer advocacy groups, journalists, and activists have been reporting on fraudulent influencers, fake followers, and problematic content related to the influencer marketing industry. Sample articles on these topics are included in this guide as examples and/or overviews.
Fraudulent influencers are those who create social media posts alleging it the content is sponsored by a business, but in reality they have no agreement with the brand. They leverage these pretend deals in order to secure real contracts with other businesses. There are also controversies around virtual influencers: computer-generated characters that gain followers and promote brands, but purport to be real people.
Fake followers are multiple social media accounts created by the same person or group and sold in bundles to increase an influencer's total follower account, which is a metric often used by brands to gauge how much influence a person has, and therefore, how much to pay them.
Problematic content can include alcohol, smoking, and nudity in sponsored posts, specifically with concerns related to the age of an influencer's audience. A growing issue in travel marketing is the "Instagram effect" where influencer photos of lesser-known destinations are driving tourism traffic and in some cases, destroying the environment.