I wanted to write this article because I’ve been seeing lots of posts on Instagram (mostly) of influencers promoting different investments, often suggesting they have made a lot of money using them (and it’s mostly involving crypto), and I have a problem with that.
Social media influencers have boomed in the past few years and, what was once a farfetched and trivial job is now a very feasible full-time career that many are choosing to pursue. People can now make a living by posting review video and content…especially if those reviews are sponsored. A recent study showed that 37% trust the opinion of social media influencers over brands, with Gen Z and Millennials twice as more likely to trust influencers over Boomers. I think that this statistic isn’t shocking or dangerous overall; watching reviews of products you are thinking of buying is a good way of practising your own due diligence. But it’s when paid promotions of investments start cropping up where it becomes an issue.
Speculation is a term used in investing, whereby groups of people try to guess how a trend, portfolio, or stock will perform in the future, normally with just surface-level knowledge or research. This investment strategy is very risky and can be a factor to why monumental crashes (like the Great Depression) happen. If you watch any influencer’s video that is promoting a particular investment, trading platform, NFT or cryptocurrency, you will start to notice speculation. They will start hyping the investment up, usually stating that it has earned them X amount of money in a short period of time, or make bold claims that it will continue to grow, despite market conditions being down. This is incredibly dangerous for young, impressionable consumers, who trust whatever product these influencers are selling.
The truth is, yes, these investments have probably made these influencers money…because they have been paid to talk about it. It is highly unlikely that they themselves invest or trade the product they are pushing, on a regular basis. Or worse, they may be using a pump and dump method; whereby them hyping up the investment may make lots of people buy, and drive prices higher. They then have the opportunity to cash out, making money for themselves but making the stock crash, leaving you, the consumer, sat with a bad investment that’s lost you money.
Believing these kind of posts and videos are so dangerous because usually the influencer does not have enough knowledge to be promoting such a product. These products are normally a lot riskier than most people’s risk appetites, and the influencer is probably unaware of all the fine print. In all honesty, the only people that should be giving advice on financial services are licensed professionals, and even then, it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. A doctor wouldn’t go on YouTube and tell everyone to start taking antibiotics, regardless of whether they are sick or not. The same goes for a financial advisor. Any videos giving financial advice should be taken with a pinch of salt; not everyone’s finances are going to be planned the same way and not everyone is going to be investing in the same thing. Investing should be tailor made to the individual, based on goals, time frame, budget and risk appetite.
Of course, I’m not saying that any social media influencer that posts this sort of stuff is a bad person (everyone needs to get paid), but be cautious when you watch people pushing investment strategies that they are probably not implementing themselves. If in doubt, always ask a professional.