Is Social Media for Our Entertainment or Just an Advertising Platform?

3 girl friends using social media apps on their phones


We all catch ourselves spending hours on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. We seem to be most enthusiastic about what others have to say about their lives. First of all, there is nothing wrong with that. Being inspired or entertained by others is by no means a bad thing. The only question is whether social media has another characteristic in addition to the aspect of entertainment: that of an advertising platform. Is it now even so far that the original function – that of entertainment – is overshadowed by it?

BibisBeautyPalace and DagiBee are just two of the biggest influencer names in Germany. Both have been active on the social media platform Youtube since 2012 and regularly upload videos on the topics of beauty, fashion, and lifestyle. At the beginning of her career, no one would have thought that her channels would be so successful. Bibi, born Bianca Claßen, is even so successful that she and her husband were able to afford a villa worth an estimated 2018.1-5 million euros in 3. Is such an expensive lifestyle possible? Do entertainment videos really bring in that much revenue? After all, a high number of clicks alone does not bring you millions. So there must be more to it. And it does. The phenomenon is called: influencer marketing.


Nowadays, the term influencer and the associated job description, content creator (german: content producer), is widely used. But what exactly is an influencer? The article “Influencer Marketing”, which was published on 12.02.2020 on the homepage of the marketing company “Reachbird”, tries to answer this question. Martin Faltl, a member of the GfM research series, defines the term as follows. “Influencers [are] creative individuals who regularly produce publicly available content, who are willing to collaborate with brands and whose content influences follower behavior.”

This is precisely where the crux of the matter lies. In the case of paid cooperation with companies, influencers have the task of influencing their subscribers in such a way that they buy their advertised products.


The problem with this strategy is that the target group is often very young people, some of whom are still minors. Especially children or adolescents aged 10-14 years are not yet well enough trained in the media to be able to recognize that certain videos or contributions are pure advertising. When influencers present their yield of a drugstore purchase, it is not primarily about merely showing off. At the beginning of the emergence of the phenomenon of “influencer”, there were no uniform rules for labeling advertising on social media platforms. Conversely, this meant that influencers could advertise a partner company on both YouTube and Instagram without clearly marking it. This becomes critical in moments when influencers post a picture with sponsored clothes and, depending on the number of followers, can earn up to high four-digit sums. The question can clearly be raised as to whether this is morally justifiable. In the meantime, however, the situation has changed: In 2018, a law was introduced that regulates the labeling of advertising. According to this law, influencers, whether it is paid or unpaid advertising, must label it with “advertising, advertisement or ad (the English abbreviation for advertisement)”.


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Advertising is a phenomenon that became popular in the media, especially through television commercials. But how did it come about that many products are now being marketed more and more on social media platforms? And does this strategy perhaps have the potential for the “advertising of tomorrow”?

The above-mentioned article “Influencer Marketing” shows that 80% of companies now include influencers in their marketing strategy. But where does this sudden increase in interest in influencers come from? First of all, it is important to define the term “influencer marketing”. The basic idea of this concept is that, on the one hand, brands and influencers produce content in joint cooperation and, on the other hand, both sides can benefit from it. Through this close cooperation, brands can increase their awareness and improve their image at the same time. Profitable for influencers and their follower engagement, as they can provide their fan community with high-quality content, polished by collaborations with large companies.


For companies, however, there are also more advantages than the advantages already mentioned above. One aspect that seems very profitable for companies: influencers produce their content themselves. Although the companies provide clear guidelines and information that the influencers should pass on to potential new customers, there are no creative limits to their implementation. They are often content producers, photographers, models, photo designers, video editors, and social media experts in one person. Companies are increasingly relying on micro-influencers when it comes to conveying content to specific target groups. These influencers are people with a subscriber number between about 10,000-40,000 people. The reason for their special position is that such influencers usually specialize in a particular area. Depending on the niche that the respective influencers serve, they receive different cooperation requests: A fashion influencer, for example, can advertise a designer wristwatch more credibly than someone with a focus on sustainability.

Another point in terms of credibility: Often the influencers are of a similar age to the target group of the respective company. Recommendations from “approachable” influencers seem more trustworthy and authentic than those of an entrepreneur. However, influencers should not exploit the credulity of their subscribers out of pure greed for profit and promote things that are either of poor quality or do not deliver what they promise.

Nowadays, advertising has become indispensable on social media platforms such as Instagram & Co. Many influencers earn their living with it. It is therefore not surprising that YouTube and Instagram, for example, no longer see themselves as pure entertainment platforms, but are also increasingly used for advertising purposes. However, it should be important here to guarantee that advertising is also marked as such. Otherwise, it is surreptitious advertising and lack of transparency and this is morally reprehensible, especially with a younger target group. As long as users are aware that personal recommendations from the Internet can sometimes also conceal paid advertising, social media is a good and probably forward-looking way to advertise products. Of course, you should not believe or support everything that is shown on the Internet.