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Should Influencers be Trusted? Analysis of Influencers’ Interaction with Children and Adolescents on Instagram and Youtube

Marita Zitmane, Marija Vorkule
University of Latvia

Abstract. Children and adolescents (in study it refers to age group 11 till 17) nowadays spend many hours online on social media following their favorite influencers. Children and adolescents are avid consumers of social media and constitute attractive target audiences for influencer marketing. Studies show that sponsored content from favorite social media influencers appears to be highly influential and may affect brand preferences of given audiences. Furthermore, influencer endorsements are observed to carry greater credibility and authenticity than traditional forms of advertising. This therefore raises questions about young consumers’ discernment of, and critical evaluation of the overall appropriateness when influencers act as conduits of commercial messages. The influencer interaction with young audiences in Latvian social media landscape still needs to be mapped.
This paper reports on a quantitative study of the influencer communication on two social media – YouTube and Instagram. A total of 459 YouTube videos and 654 Instagram posts in time period from 01.01.2021 to 01.01.2022 were selected for analysis. The aim is to acquire knowledge on how influencers communicate with their young audiences, and do they use appropriate advertising disclosures when communicating commercial information, which is a requirement of Latvian legislation. This information is crucial for further discussion on advertising literacy of young audiences as well as legal regulation of influencer marketing.
The research finds that influencers in most part do not properly mark the sponsored content. Thus, influencers both do not comply with the regulatory framework, and deny their young audience the tools to employ advertising skills.

Keywords: advertising literacy, artificial intelligence, children and adolescents, disinformation, social media, social media influencers

Author Note
This research is funded by the Latvian Council of Science, project “Jeopardizing Democracy through Disinformation and Conspiracies: Reconsidering Experience of Latvia”, project No. lzp-2019/1-0278

In: Human, Technologies and Quality of Education, 2022. Proceedings of Scientific Papers = Cilvēks, tehnoloģijas un izglītības kvalitāte, 2022. Rakstu krājums
Riga, University of Latvia, 2022. 1135 p. Ed. L. Daniela
ISBN 978-9934-18-911-1