By Bella Rigley

Edited for online by Claire Boughey

‘Social media influencers’ are losing the trust of their followers as a trend of self-endorsement begins to creep in to the online world.

Most Instagram users are aware social media personalities or high follower profiles are used by third party businesses to sell products, but these so-called ‘influencers’ are now using their followings to launch their own ventures, starting a new era of social media e-commerce.

Association of Internet Researchers president Professor Axel Bruns said this trend had led to disgruntled consumers, as it was often not disclosed on the posts that the recommended brand is personally owned.

“It’s really a very significant breach of trust and quite a few influencer celebrities who’ve been using their [platforms] to influence others have actually lost a lot of followers.”

Professor Bruns said this trend had developed due to the behaviour of social media users.

“In social media of course we choose who we connect with, we choose who we follow and interact with and so on,” he said.

“We are actually making it possible for people to target us directly because we choose them and we choose who we’re interested in.”

Twenty-two-year-old social media influencer Michaela Wain has more than 500,000 followers on Instagram.

Instagram profiles such as Michaela Wain's are becoming a means for business and self-promotion. Source: Instagram
Instagram is becoming a business platform rather than purely social. Source: Instagram

She originally joined the photo sharing app eight years ago for personal use, and it is now her main source of income.

Her Instagram profile has led to modelling jobs, has secured her endorsement deals and now promotes her newly launched bikini range.

She said this growing trend was the result of these personalities realising their potential.

“You know it’s getting to a point where a lot influencers are noticing that they can be successful in other ways other than just posting on Instagram and there is more of a long term thing,” she said.

“I think it is very popular for influencers to use their presence on social media.”

Milk. Public Relations director Wendy Serrano questions the longevity of businesses reliant on social media platform advertising, and said influencers should be thinking more long term.

“Some of them are kind of probably riding the wave for as long as they can,” she said.

“Instagram could be dead tomorrow and then they would be no one.

“I think they should be looking at other options to back themselves up.”

She said Instagram had evolved from a picture sharing application into a viable advertising platform for anyone to sell their own products.

“Instagram is becoming shoppable, and it’s more of an e-commerce platform now than interacting with your friends and networking and sharing pretty pictures.”

Despite the lack of transparency by some ‘influencers’ when promoting self-owned products Ms Serrano said influencers launching their own brands via social media was a trend here to stay.

“It’s the start of the next part of the influencer cycle… I think everyone should get ready for it.”