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The internet is a funny place that needs to break records or be broken itself to create something new and iconic. If we look at some media personalities who changed the game Kylie Jenner comes first to mind. The youngest Kadashian- Jenner sibling launched three Lipkits in 2015 on her website Kyliecosmetics then called Kylie lipkit. The products sold out in one minute, yes you read that right. This celebrity had the greatest launch any cosmetic or fashion brand has ever seen. Since then popular content creators have turned into social media influencers on a quest to make similar record breaking moments on the internet.
Who knew that there would be a stronger hold influential personalities can have on the masses that set the fate of the internet in terms of what works and what does not. The exponential growth of social media has led brands to recognise the impact influential people can make in trends, fashion, lifestyle, business, health, wellness and most importantly generating great revenue in short spans of time.
Actor Gwyneth Paltrow for instance created her own lifestyle and new-age wellness company called Goop that has been controversial since its launch in 2008 for its questionable scientific backing. In 2017, they came out with a pricey healing sticker that claimed to be made from the same “conductive carbon material” NASA uses in their spacesuits. Although, former chief scientist, Mark Shelhamer was quick to clap back, disputing the claim entirely in his tweet. Similarly, several social media influencers are quick to vouch for products in the health and wellness space.
In this engaged competition ethics, research and censorship are compromised to a level that now the government has had to intervene with some rules.The biggest rule being for creators to display their qualifications on the topic they educate the audience on. “In simple words, if you are not qualified to talk about something simply don’t read and talk about it. When you go to a doctor or a sex therapist or a psychologist in real life, you see their degrees up on the wall. The Government simply wants the same on social media too,” said Tanya Appachu, a lawyer and digital creator.
The guidelines also include the mandate for clear, prominent and extremely hard to miss disclosures in endorsement messages. Furthermore, these disclosures need to be clearly visible even during Live streams. Disha Chhabra, a Fitness expert and entrepreneur with a strong social media presence shared that, ” for many people content creating is just for fun and engagement without having proper knowledge about the niche they are into.” This is where the danger lies.
Now, with the new guidelines influencers must take extra caution when promoting or endorsing products and services. Furthermore, companies need to be aware of the implications of their relationships with influencers and see to it that their collaborations comply with the guidelines. The focus now is on transparency and authenticity of content shared on social media. “It is important that health and wellness creators take these guidelines seriously and work towards providing their audience with content that is factual and beneficial to their health,” said Simran Balar Jain, a sex educator and digital creator in the health and wellness space.
The importance of social media and its influencers is not belittled but the accountability of content shared widely on the internet is the focus. The guidelines are a great initiative but there are some loopholes. Appachu shared that the biggest loophole is, “the implementation of the guideline itself.” The government has not disclosed how they plan on checking and ensuring the guidelines are followed or even how followers of these creators could report instances where the content does not comply with the regulations.
As the industry grows, influencers need to be more mindful of their work and take responsibility for their content. Thus, resulting in a higher standard for social media influencers and the companies collaborating with them.