Facebook, Twitter and Instagram don’t let tobacco companies pay for ads on their platforms, and have clear policies on branded content.
But by using influencers under the radar, tobacco companies get around those policies.
This is how they do it:
1. Tobacco companies don’t tell influencers to include “#ad” or “#sponsored” in their posts, which avoids being caught by social media platforms’ official ad systems.
2. The posts use subtle campaign hashtags like #likeus or #nighthunters, which fly under the radar but are actually campaigns by British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International.
3. The posts include tobacco products in the images, which are impossible to differentiate from an influencer’s own everyday content.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can play a critical role in stopping online tobacco advertising if they enforce their policies to block tobacco advertising in influencer content.