Online shopping

Be careful as YouTube expands online shopping

YouTube is moving deeper into the world of online shopping, positioning itself as the streaming equivalent of QVC or HSN (aka the Home Shopping Network).

The video platform said on Tuesday it was partnering with e-commerce heavyweight Shopify to expand its “creator-hosted streaming events.”

That is, more sales pitches from people who present themselves as “influencers” but who may, in fact, be little more than corporate accomplices.

Live online shopping programs allow viewers to purchase goodies in real time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Now eligible creators can link their Shopify store to their YouTube channel in just a few steps,” YouTube said in a blog post.

Keep in mind, however, that the easier it becomes to sell you stuff online, the more likely it is that unsavory guys will seek to take advantage of you.

Amazon on Tuesday sued the administrators of thousands of Facebook groups over false online reviews. The administrators would have acted as brokers offering money or gifts in exchange for forged writings.

If nothing else, Amazon’s lawsuit serves as a reminder to approach all online criticism with caution and some skepticism.

“We know that creators and viewers have a unique relationship, and it’s that trust between them that helps inform what viewers ultimately buy,” YouTube says.

What you need to keep in mind is that “creators” are required to disclose any compensation they receive in exchange for peddling products.

“If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message must clearly indicate when you have a relationship (“material connection”) with the brand,” the Federal Trade Commission states.

“A ‘material connection’ to the mark includes a personal, family, business, or financial relationship – such as the mark paying you or offering you free or discounted goods or services.”

Many creators and influencers see this requirement more as a pirate code guideline than a rule to maintain market transparency.

That’s not to say you can’t trust all the friendly faces you see on YouTube’s live shopping streams.

But it’s a reasonable assumption that many, if not most, line their pockets when they release merchandise.

If they don’t, you have every right to be suspicious.

And you absolutely have to keep that in mind whenever you look at these things.