When Does Influence Become Paid Manipulation?
Between constant notifications and scrolling through various feeds during downtime, it’s not shocking that social media plays a strong, active role in most of our lives.
More and more businesses are noticing this, too. You might see advertisements in between pictures of your friends and family. While many people can ignore those pesky ads, what’s harder to ignore is when your favorite celebrity, blogger, or social media personality is subtly endorsing products in their posts. Are they talking about a certain clothing designer, shoes or food-related products? If they are, then they are considered an “influencer.”
A Deeper Look Into What an Influencer Is
By definition, an influencer is an online personality who shares opinions and advice about various types of products and services. These individuals could have a large advertising following, or “audience,” but some might have a small following. Influencer marketing isn’t just about giveaways or promotions―it can be as subtle as tagging the clothing brand the influencer may be wearing in the post.
Why is Influencer Marketing a Bad Thing?
The products they advertise can be misleading in any way shape or form. It also begs the question of, “Is this person posting about this product because they actually like it or because they’re being paid to advertise it?” You follow these people because you admire or aspire to be them in some shape or form. Their ingenuity can create a lack of trust.
Does this form of advertising on social media fall under the same legal regulation as other forms of advertising? It sure does. Under the Competition Act , any influencer must acknowledge they have a relationship with the advertiser, which indicates an exchange of materials and not necessarily money. Not communicating the relationship the influencer has with the advertiser prevents people from discerning what’s authentic and what is paid for, commonly referred to as misleading, or deceptive, marketing.
To avoid expensive legal actions, here are ways influencers can legally promote a brand and what consumers can look out for.
1. Visual disclosures
2. Acknowledgement of connections in each individual post
3. Disclosure is attached to post, so it stays when post is shared
4. Word and image content is appropriate
5. Reviews must be from actual experience
Remember, influencers don’t need to be celebrities. They can have 200 followers, or two million. What’s important to remember is when there is a promotion for an exchange of goods, there needs to be a disclosure.
As a consumer, the next time you’re scrolling through and see your favorite blogger promoting their favorite skin serum, look to see if there is any indication for a paid advertisement. Does their post say #ad, #sponsored, or in partnership? If not, now you know why that can be a breach of trust and lead to legal issues down the road.