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E-Commerce and the Influencer Economy

Today we bring you a useful article from Wirecutter, The Times’ product recommendation service.

Every day, people are bombarded with ads on the internet for new fashions that promise to dramatically improve their lives. Trendy cups. Stylish pans. Miraculous cleaning solutions. Extravagant air purifiers. Just click on this link and – voilà! Productivity. Happiness. Nirvana.

Testing the many products that clog Americans’ social media feeds. While some of their testers like them, these products are often built on empty promises. In their newsletter, they explain how e-commerce, a $6 trillion global industry, is drowning in garbage…

Commissions are Paid for Sales

Online shopping can expose people to an influencer economy: Influencers often participate in an affiliate network. When an influencer’s follower clicks on a link and buys something, the influencer earns money. That’s why people in your social media feed brag about their 10 favorite Amazon products or talk about how an expensive gadget changed their lives.

Many influencers have another incentive: Brands pay them to advertise something. Some people with large followings make deals worth tens of thousands of dollars per post. Then, when enough people like or share a post, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube algorithms pass it on to more people.

Products featured on social media are often made by small companies and come with unhelpful instructions or terrible warranties. This is the case with the Pipersong Meditation Chair, billed as a solution for restless sitters thanks to its swiveling footstool.

“As I lowered myself into this thing with no solid back support or armrests, I knew that most people wouldn’t find it worth the $400+ price tag. Even viral products from trusted brands can be mediocre. Stanley cups are all the rage. But they still fall apart. A lot. But the leaks haven’t stopped them from selling 10 million units since 2020. Recently, people flocked to Target to grab one in a trending color. As an editor at Wirecutter, I take my job of testing and recommending products seriously.

The editor, who never wants anyone to waste their hard-earned money on garbage, has some useful advice for all of us on how to avoid being scammed:

  • Search for the product name on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube or Reddit. Are influencers all saying the same thing? And does it sound like marketing copy?
  • Look for the hashtags #advertising, #sponsored or #partner in the post to see if the recommender is mentioned by the brand. If the influencer does not disclose this agreement, they can be fined.
  • Check influencers’ bios or LinkedIn profiles for credentials. Do they have a history in this field? Have the creators demonstrated their testing methods? Do they have testing methods?
  • Read one-star marketplace reviews to see if consistent flaws stand out.
  • See if a trusted person or publication also recommends the product.

Not all influencers are malicious sellers. Some creators use their expertise to review products and give trusted recommendations. But it’s important to distinguish the difference.

To summarize, they say, don’t waste your time and money on overhyped trends.


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