Steve January 13, 2021

13 January 2021

In August of last year, media outlets reported that a number of social media influencers had been paid to post about the government’s Test and Trace service.

Full Fact asked the Cabinet Office how much was spent on this type of marketing, via a Freedom of Information Request. It told us that £63,000 was spent paying 42 social media influencers to post about Test and Trace. This amounts to £1,500 per influencer on average, although their payment is likely to vary depending on how large their following is.

Because of the rules in the UK about disclosing paid-for advertising on social media, if influencers are paid to post, they must disclose this, which is commonly done using the hashtag #ad. The campaign also seemed to use other hashtags, such as #letsgetback and #gettested.

We searched these hashtags on Instagram, and found posts from 11 social media personalities which appeared to have been posted as part of this campaign. 

These influencers had between 9,000 and 1.6 million followers at the time of posting, and these posts were interacted with a total of 81,963 times. Interactions on an Instagram post include the number of likes and comments. We cannot tell how many times these posts were viewed.

We are not suggesting these are the only posts that were paid for as part of this campaign. Other posts may have been deleted, or appeared on other social media platforms, such as TikTok and YouTube, but these are harder to search.

The Cabinet Office told us: “As part of the wider communications strategy for raising essential awareness of the NHS Test and Trace service and the importance of testing for Covid-19, we have been working with key micro and macro influencers to reach young adults in a channel they regularly engage with, as we also use traditional marketing and advertorials to reach adults via print, radio and TV advertising.”

Some of the influencers included Shaughna Phillips and Josh Denzel, who both appeared on Love Island, and professional hockey player, Henry Weir.

Can you chip in to help us do more?

You’ve probably seen a surge in misleading and unsubstantiated medical advice since the Covid-19 outbreak. If followed, it can put lives at serious risk. We need your help to protect us all from false and harmful information.

We’ve seen people claiming to be health professionals, family members, and even the government – offering dangerous tips like drinking warm water or gargling to prevent infection. Neither of these will work.

The longer claims like these go unchecked, the more they are repeated and believed. It can put people’s health at serious risk, when our services are already under pressure.

Today, you have the opportunity to help save lives. Good information about Covid-19 could be the difference between someone taking the right precautions to protect themselves and their families, or not. Could you help protect us all from false and harmful information today?

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