August 13, 2022

Digital Marketing Education

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What Instagram’s teen challenges mean for advertisers

Instagram is under renewed pressure about its policies around teens, and the scrutiny could affect how advertisers approach the app when it comes to influencer marketing and other brand safety considerations.

On Wednesday, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri testified before a Senate consumer protection subcommittee, where lawmakers asked about the health of teens. For months, lawmakers have been digging into Facebook and Instagram, which now fall under the corporate identity Meta, because of reports about how the platforms impact teen health. In September, this question was one of the biggest issues raised by whistleblower Frances Haugen. Haugen leaked internal reports that suggested Instagram found some at-risk teens felt worse about themselves after using the app.

“Instagram is addictive,” Senator Richard Blumenthal told Mosseri during the hearing, adding that Instagram’s algorithm is designed to keep teens on the site. 

Senators were fired up in their questioning, following more reports this week about the type of content that Instagram could serve teens. On Tuesday, watchdog group Tech Transparency Project claimed that it ran an experiment that found minors could be directed to Instagram accounts of drug peddlers.

While the focus of the hearing was teens, lawmakers also touched on topics that directly impact advertisers. 

Influencer programs

The use of influencers and creators was raised during the hearings, an area that Instagram and Facebook are both investing in aggressively. On Wednesday, in fact, Facebook announced a new program that would pay the most popular creators up to $35,000 a month to make Reels, the short-form videos that are similar to those on TikTok.

Senator Marsha Blackburn asked about popular influencer Jojo Siwa, now 18 years old, who once told Mosseri she had an Instagram account since she was 8 years old.

Mosseri, Blackburn said, told Siwa he “didn’t want to know,” and then the senator asked if that was his general attitude about children sneaking around Instagram’s under-13 age restriction.

“It looked as if you were encouraging kids, who want to be online stars, to get on earlier and to build their audience,” Blackburn said.

“I would say it was a missed opportunity,” Mosseri said, failing to use the conversation with Siwa as a teaching moment.

Siwa was also a popular child star on Nickelodeon, joined YouTube at the age of 13, and was once featured in Ad Age.

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