Earlier this year, social media stars Casey Neistat and Jérôme Jarre ‘leveraged the power of social media’ to provide food and aid in drought-stricken Somalia.
Our point? Influencer marketing can be used for good, but a growing industry-wide problem is in danger of tarnishing its reputation. According to recent figures from Mediakix, 93% of A-list endorsements are still in breach of FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines.
Many social media stars are flouting the basic rules of influencer marketing by not crediting paid for posts with #ad or a #spon. But the problem isn’t just stateside. Many UK influencers are still failing to highlight instances of paid promotional content.
In April, the UK’s watchdog – the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) – ordered the takedown of a promotional post by London beauty blogger Sheikhbeauty.
The ASA found the popular star to be in breach of their most recent set of guidelines, which state: “it may be necessary to use an identifier like ‘Ad’ if the post is of a commercial nature.
But we mustn’t make an example of Sheikhbeauty; she is not the first, and she won’t be the last. However, the problem is somewhat discrediting the influencer marketing industry.
So, why are many still breaching these basic guidelines?
Does ‘Ad’ reduce the ‘native effect’ of promotional content?
By far the most heavily used argument for breaking the rules is that tagging posts with ‘ad’ will reduce the promotional impact and engagement of a post.
Some argue that it makes posts feel less native and therefore do not engage as well, it’s a common misconception that continues to plague the industry.
However, through experience, we have found that this isn’t the case. In several instances, we have found that, on average, sponsored posts -marked #ad perform just as well if not better than non-paid posts.
The example below shows content from leading fashion and lifestyle influencer Lydia Elise Millen. As you can see, her posts average between 130,000 to 250,000 views, and there are instances where posts marked #ad have surpassed non-promotional posts.
Likewise, most influencers are protective over their brand and will ensure that the content shown on their channels – promotional or otherwise – appeases their audience and resonates.
Nevertheless, all influencers have a responsibility to adhere to the guidelines set out by the FTC and ASA, both from a professional and ethical stance.
While many of us of a certain age will be aware of what constitutes an ad and what doesn’t, the same can’t always be said for young teens and adolescents. So, what’s being done?
Tougher guidelines are needed to combat the problem
Currently the ASA have little power when it comes to issuing monetary fines, the site works on ‘bad publicity’ and making an example of broadcasters and social stars.
But will a firm talking to from the ASA really affect an influencer with hundreds and thousands of loyal followers? Probably not.
What’s needed is tougher sanctions and penalties to ensure both agents and influencers are on board with agencies and brands.
Over the years, Social Chain has worked closely with the ASA as a thought leader in what is still a relatively new era of social media marketing.
We continue to make suggestions and inform the organisation along with other agencies to ensure the wider industry is held accountable. Aside from this, we now set out strict contracts between talent, agents and brands to ensure that these guidelines are being adhered to at all time.
Elsewhere, major platforms are beginning to do their bit to legitimise influencer marketing through new features and initiatives.
How Instagram is doing its bit for influencer marketing
This month, Instagram announced it would be adding a new feature to the app to let users disclose sponsored content. However, it’s believed that Instagram will not yet penalise influencers who do not use this new service.
Its impact is yet to be known, but this is a step in the right direction for all. Influencer marketing has entered mainstream advertising. The future depends on all following the rules.
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