thin woman holding pills, weight loss ad

What Instagram’s Commitment to a Healthier Headspace Means for Social Marketers

By: Sophie Maerowitz

September 19, 2019

Scammy diet products, begone: Instagram has announced it will no longer show posts promoting weight loss products and cosmetic surgeries to those 18 and younger on the platform. The company will also take down posts that make “a miraculous claim about certain diet or weight loss products…linked to a commercial offer such as a discount code,” according to a press release emailed to The Verge, NBC, Evening Standard and other media outlets.

Celebrity influencers have contributed to the spread of miracle weight loss products on Instagram, with critics frequently pointing to Kylie Jenner’s FitTea partnership as an example (see also: Flat Tummy Co. posts from Amber Rose, Cardi B and Iggy Azalea).

Instagram’s move is a response to widespread concern that young people are vulnerable to weight loss content, which impacts self esteem and body image at a crucial stage of development. The issue is compounded when weight loss product messaging comes from the celebrities and influencers teenagers look up to and see in their feeds and Stories.

Research and medical professionals have spoken to the harmful effects of false advertising for diet products and the impact of social media on mental health. A 2018 Pew study found that 43% of teenagers on social media “feel pressure to only post content that makes them look good to others.”

Thankfully, not every celebrity influencer has climbed aboard the miracle diet train. Actress and body positivity advocate Jameela Jamil has been petitioning Instagram to take action for well over a year. In the spring of 2018, she launched the inspirational account i_weigh to encourage other women to measure themselves in terms other than what their bodies look like. As of this writing, the petition has more than 76,000 signatures, and the i_weigh account does impressive daily numbers, despite its lack of corporate funding.


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A GOOD DAY ??? This is just the beginning. #iweigh #savethelivers #savethekidneys #saynotodetoxproducts #instagram #facebook #diet #detox #socialchange

A post shared by I WEIGH ? (@i_weigh) on

Now that Instagram has begun drawing a harder line, it’s up to brand marketers to consider the health impacts of their own Instagram posts. There’s a business case for this: As social platforms continue to crack down on deceptive influencer content, harmful posts—deleted or hampered from reaching their intended targets—will cease paying dividends for the brands shelling out for access to influencers’ follower bases.

On a positive note, this is a moment of opportunity for social media marketers to start thinking creatively about how their posts can promote health, spark empathy and build community among followers. And while not every brand’s mission will align directly with mental or physical health, simply being more conscious about representation—the faces, bodies and cultures represented in your visual content—will go a long way toward establishing your organization as “one of the good ones.” (There is a business case for this approach as well; a recent study from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that cultural relevance drives both loyalty and sales.)

Brand accounts that infuse their posts with social good need not be preachy or inauthentic. Relatable influencer posts are still an excellent way to drive cultural relevance and empathy with an audience. For “brandspiration,” see IKEA’s work with Amina Mucciolo’s (below), Sandy Hook Promise’s powerful new PSA and Mermaids UK‘s first-class Instagram edutainment. Consider the impact of your content on the young minds of Instagram, open the door to culturally relevant and health-focused creative and allow the magic to flow.


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#tbt I can’t believe it’s already been a year since this happened! Caption from the original post: “Total full circle moment! @mrstudiomucci and I got married at @ikeausa 10 years ago and now our loft is featured in the @ikeafamilymag ??? and my mug is on the cover ?!” See link in my bio for the full #Ikea home tour.

A post shared by Amina Mucciolo (@studiomucci) on

Follow Sophie: @SophieMaerowitz

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