‘The little miracle’ : The use of manipulative language in the promotion of CBD products on Instagram



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
Description The role of influencers and celebrities in the promotion of products and services on social media is indisputable and has been confirmed in previous research (e.g., Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). To avoid being accused of ‘selling out’, influencers typically integrate the sponsored products into their daily lives (Hou, 2018) and promote them in the form of advertorials rather than explicit advertisements (Abidin, 2016). While personal experience with a sponsored product is highlighted in such posts, arguably little attention is paid to the credibility of the influencer’s claims under the pretense of their objectivity and authenticity. This becomes increasingly problematic when promoted products fall into the category of nonprescription drugs and dietary supplements since social media users may potentially delay seeking professional help and turn to different alternatives recommended to them by influencers. A particularly noteworthy example of such products is cannabidiol (CBD), which – though often praised for its curative effects – is not legally considered a drug in many countries. Therefore, taking as the object of analysis the self-presentation of a Slovak hip hop musician who openly collaborates with a company manufacturing CBD products, I adopt a multimodal discourse analysis approach to examine the strategies the musician employs in his Instagram posts, Stories and IGTV videos devoted to the promotion of CBD oil essences. The preliminary results of the analysis show that the identified product presentation strategies contain manipulative language, which gives prominence to the positive effects of the products and to the expertise of the manufacturers while withholding relevant information concerning the recommended dosage and research studies used for supporting the musician’s claims. To delineate whether these potentially manipulative strategies are typical of the presentation of CBD products by other influencers, a small-scale dataset of random Instagram posts written in English and containing the hashtag #cbdinfluencer is additionally examined.
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