Discussion paper

DP19079 Influencer Cartels

Social media influencers account for a growing share of marketing worldwide. We demonstrate the existence of a novel form of market failure in this advertising market: influencer cartels, where groups of influencers collude to increase their advertising revenue by inflating their engagement. Our theoretical model shows that influencer cartels can improve consumer welfare if they expand social media engagement to the target audience, or reduce welfare if they divert engagement to less relevant audiences. We validate the model empirically using novel data on influencer cartels combined with machine learning tools, and derive policy implications for how to maximize consumer welfare.


Hinnosaar, M and T Hinnosaar (2024), ‘DP19079 Influencer Cartels‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 19079. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp19079