As a user of social media, you have surely been exposed to it. Ads for dubious products often hidden in posts that seem to be from your friends. Clicking on the link will often bring you to a site that is a blatant copy of a well-known news site or similar. From here you are finally directed to the real marketeer promoting all sorts of products from diet-pills to cures for erectile dysfunction.
In case you wonder what is going on there is a perfectly good explanation. All over the world, especially young men have set up what is known as affiliate marketing programs. The way it works is that a company that produces said products will offer an incentive for anyone who can get sign-ups. Affiliate marketing companies pick up the challenge, creating a fake ad campaign on social media, faking consents for e-mail marketing, and creating fake websites. By using social media’s targeting tools, they are able to target those people most likely to eventually click on the links. Companies, such as Facebook, are perfectly aware of what is going on and will even attend meetings and gatherings of these young men. After all they contribute significantly to Facebook’s profits.
Historically there is a parallel. Back in the 1800s media was rife with ads for all sorts of questionable treatments. In fact, this kind of advertising to a large extent is what helped newspapers gain volume and size. It was not until 1938 that the FDA was given the authority to regulate drugs (read more about the history of pharma marketing here.)