The Instagram account of the social media sensation, I Gede Ari Astina a.k.a Jerinx SID (@jrxsid) has recently been suspended after a heated argument with another celebrity took place. Know for his boldness, this is not the first time Jerinx has published several statements echoing COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Even after being released from Kerobokan Prison due to the hate speech case, Jerinx did not hesitate to post misleading opinions via his Instagram account. 

As ridiculous as his statement sounded, it is unfortunate that Jerinx is not the only one who held onto such belief. Undoubtedly, Jerinx has an audience who would listen to his words and adhere to his actions – one of the perks of being an influencer. 

These influencers hold power in the current digital marketing world. Brands constantly use them to market their products and/or services. This phenomenon is often found not only in primary needs but also secondary and tertiary needs. Local makeup brands are constantly collaborating with influencers to reach a bigger audience. Even high-end fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton were using Emma Chamberlain, a youtube influencer, as one of their ambassadors.

With the rise of independent creators with independent platforms, it will not come as a surprise if people started leaving the 9-5 career lifestyle and rather focused on expanding their social media engagement. However as the influencer market grows, fraud and misinformation are becoming more rampant. Without the existence of regulation, this has become a valid concern, especially with regard to endorsement. 

The power of influencers
A social media influencer marketing involves a popular online figure who promotes a product and/or service on their social media feed. Typically, the one rule to be an influencer is to have plenty of followers on your social media. 

But, the question is: what power do influencers have to affect their audience in decision making which makes them a valuable asset?

Now, let’s get a little technical.

Bourdieu’s Field Theory stated that there are three main components in marketing: social capital, field, and agency. 

Social capital acts as the power that pushes an agent to achieve their agenda. Influencers as the agent have to compete in their field, the social media platforms, to achieve certain interactions such as follows, likes, comments, and so on. Then, interactions became the currency of power which means the audience has given the influencers their power. 

In other words, influencers are agents with agendas in doing endorsements which is to influence their audience. The higher the social capital, the easier it is to achieve their agenda. 

A lawless territory 
The accessibility to becoming a social media influencer has affected the rapid growth of influencers in Indonesia. According to the data provided by We Are Social and Hootsuite in 2020, social media penetration through influencers is 160 million Indonesians (around 59% of the country’s total population) with an 8.1% growth per year. Yet, in Indonesia, social media influencers are not governed by a specific set of rules in doing their jobs in contrast with other advertising channels such as TV or radio. 

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) requires influencers to disclose endorsement deals, including affiliate links, on their posts. In the UK, they have released an influencer guide in 2019 which affirms the importance of an influencer’s transparency when endorsing products or campaigns. 

Indonesia has been vocal about creating national guidelines for local influencers but no serious actions have been taken until now. The Indonesian authorities have not recognized social media influencers as an official profession.

The absence of national regulations regarding social media influencers’ activity could lead to unethical promotions, such as endorsing fake products to spreading misinformation as Jerinx did recently. It’s worth remembering that some consumers may not be able to assess and filter information.

Another issue is transparency. Local influencers are not obliged to inform their audience if their content is paid for by third parties. When it comes to endorsement, influencers sometimes find themselves in a more unfavorable position. This could happen if the company has a higher economic advantage in contrast with the influencers. In most cases, the company misused a standard contract which leaves the influencers no option but to negotiate. 

Currently, the audience is protected under Consumer Protection Law and Electronic Information and Transactions Law (UU ITE). However, in the long term, these regulations will not be able to keep up with the rise of social media platforms. Compatible regulations should be put into consideration to oversee the activities of influencers. 

To conclude
Social media influencers are the new marketing tools that will become more influential in the years to come. In order for the company to flourish and grow, influencers are used to reach a bigger audience. However, social media influencers are still generally unregulated. This could lead to potential fraud and misinformation. Going forward, it is important for Indonesia to have relevant regulations to manage influencers’ business.

Words by: Aldhanti Bodhihanna
Image Credit: fashiongonerogue.com
Sources: thefineryreport, kr-asia, nymag