The advent of social media has started playing a very significant role in our decisions. Many people who create content to promote products and services on social media platforms such as YouTube and Pinterest, do not disclose their marketing relationships with the companies, a new research from Princeton University reported.
The study focused on affiliate marketing, in which companies pay a commission based on social media figures to trending personalities for driving sales. Sometimes the companies also give free products to celebrities just to get their product promoted. Content creators who create videos, photos and commentary are rewarded when their followers purchase products after clicking on affiliate marketing links included in their social media posts.
Researchers from Princeton University’s Department of Computer Science said that affiliate marketing links extracted from randomly drawn samples of about 500,000 YouTube video posts and 2.1 million Pinterest pins. They said, “We found 3,472 YouTube videos and 18,237 Pinterest pins with affiliate links from 33 marketing companies.”
The researched links were found by identifying characteristic patterns in the URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) that marketers use to track readers’ clicks per hour/day. They further used natural language processing techniques to search for disclosures of affiliate marketing relationships within the ‘videos’ and ‘pins’ descriptions. Disclosures were present in around just 10% and 7% of affiliate marketing content on YouTube and Pinterest, respectively. These findings were published in the journal named, ‘Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction’.
According to the findings of the journal, the researchers proposed that regulators should take broader legal action against affiliate marketing companies for failures to disclose. And recommend that social media platforms make it easier for content creators to disclose marketing relationships in a standardized way.
The lead author of the study, Arunesh Mathur, a computer science graduate student, and his colleagues are also developing a web browser extension that would automatically flag some types of paid content, Princeton University said in a statement. Additionally, they are working on computational methods to detect other types of hidden advertisements on social media. This includes sponsored content and product giveaways, which are less straightforward to identify than affiliate marketing.