Finfluencers: what are they, and should I trust them?
Over the last few years, financial influencers, also known as finfluencers, have become more prominent on social media. Learn more about them and how you can avoid bad financial advice.
Finfluencers are influencers who offer advice and information on various financial topics.
Financial influencers, or finfluencers, have become more popular on social media over the last few years.
While many influencers offer good financial tips, there are a lot of finfluencers that may do more harm than good.
Unbiased can connect you to a regulated, fiduciary financial advisor who can give you expert, personalized financial advice.
What is a finfluencer?
Finfluencers are influencers who offer advice and information on various financial topics, including saving, investing, cryptocurrency, and sometimes even ways to get rich quickly.
They usually offer advice in quick, easy-to-digest videos, which can be engaging – but may not provide all the information people need to make a fully informed decision.
While some finfluencers may offer useful tips, following the advice of an uninformed finfluencer, or a fraudster pretending to be one or even taking advice from a sponsored post endorsed by a celebrity can be costly.
How popular are finfluencers?
Over the last few years, financial influencers have become more prominent on social media.
The global influencer market has experienced exceptional growth, rising from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $21.1 billion in 2023, according to Statista.
Young people are particularly exposed to finfluencers, with 25% of 18-24-year-olds using social media when seeking financial guidance or advice, according to research by professional services company Deloitte.
The same research also revealed that around 20% of 18-24-year-olds invest money based on recommendations from social media.
What are the dangers of finfluencers?
While many financial influencers offer good financial tips, there are a lot of finfluencers that may do more harm than good.
Finfluencers don’t need any financial qualifications or are regulated to give advice, so they are in danger of promoting risky products they don’t fully understand.
Additionally, as finfluencers make money via sponsored posts, referral fees or promoting financial products, this is something to be wary of, especially if they do not disclose this information appropriately.
In the last few years, there have been several high-profile incidents surrounding this, which has led the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to act against finfluencers and implement new regulations.
In October 2022, Kim Kardashian was fined $1.26 million for promoting EMAX tokens without properly disclosing her payment from EthereumMax. While in March 2023, YouTuber Jake Paul was part of a group fined $400,000 for allegedly unlawfully promoting cryptoasset securities.
Some financial promotions could also be considered a criminal offense if they fall foul of the rules.
A prime example of this is the 2022 collapse of FTX, a once-leading cryptocurrency exchange.
Since its collapse – due to lack of liquidity, mismanagement of funds and the subsequent large volume of investor withdrawals – a number of high-profile celebrities, including Steph Curry, Tom Brady, and Larry David, are part of a class-action lawsuit against the company and its celebrity promoters.
The lawsuit alleges the company took advantage of unsophisticated investors across the U.S., with the celebrities liable for promoting the company.
Another example can be seen in December 2022, when the SEC announced charges against eight people in a $100 million securities fraud scheme. They used the social media platforms Twitter and Discord to manipulate exchange-traded stocks.
Are finfluencers regulated?
While finfluencers are not regulated by the SEC, they do have to follow a set of rules and regulations set out by the authority.
Following numerous incidents that saw consumers experience huge losses from following the online promotion of financial products, financial regulators decided to act.
This action is aimed to prevent financial promotions via social media from causing consumers any harm.
In the US, the SEC amended its marketing rule under the Investment Advisers Act to require the disclosure of material risks associated with potential benefits to investors when investing in promoted financial products.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also updated its endorsement guidelines to address the growing finfluencer trend.
How can I avoid bad advice and fake finfluencers?
But with thousands of influencers online, how can you avoid bad advice or fake finfluencers?
Don’t assume an influencer is an expert: Just because someone is popular with millions of followers, it doesn’t mean they have financial qualifications. It’s worth doing some research to find out whether they are qualified to offer advice and if they have a financial education.
Is the influencer genuine? Sadly, there are ways for people to fake being an influencer – for example, they can buy fake followers. One way to check for this is to look at their engagement level. Generic comments and lack of engagement can reveal fake influencers.
Be scam (and risk) aware: The number of scams has soared over the last few years, including ‘get rich quick’ investment schemes on social media. In 2022, according to the FTC, consumers reported losing over $3.8 million to investment scams.
Always do your research: If you’re thinking of acting on advice from an influencer, do your own research so you can fully understand the risks. No scheme or investment is 100% risk-free and anything that sounds too good to be true most likely is.
Are they disclosing ads? Under FTC law, influencers must disclose their material connection to what they are promoting on social media.
Don’t take everything at face value: This is particularly important if an influencer is promoting an investment. For example, while they may have made gains by investing, it may also be the case that the value of that asset has dropped.
Consider regulated financial advice: One of the best ways to avoid bad advice that could cost you significant sums of money is to go through legitimate routes to find regulated financial advice. Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor regulated by the SEC, who can offer personalized advice based on your circumstances.
Get expert financial advice
When looking for financial advice, it’s best to stick with the experts.
A fiduciary financial advisor is legally obligated to act in the best interests of their clients. This means avoiding conflicts of interest, exercising diligence, and ensuring responsible and transparent decision-making to safeguard the financial wellbeing of the clients they represent.
Unbiased only works with fiduciary financial advisors who are regulated by the SEC.
By completing our two-minute questionnaire, you can connect with a financial advisor in as little as 48 hours and organize a free first consultation.
Senior Content Writer
Lisa-Marie Voneshen is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of experience writing and editing content across various areas, including personal finance and investing.