Influencer marketing is at the forefront of an advertising revolution. Seen as one of the most persuasive forms of modern marketing, an increasing number of brands are turning to social media stars to market their products and services. However, recent years has seen numerous brands and influencers caught up in legal proceedings and fines due to the non-disclosure of paid and gifted endorsements. As a growing and integrated part of social media and PR strategies, it is important professionals in the industry are aware of their responsibilities and ensure their brands are compliant with laws and advertising standards.
What is influencer marketing?
Defining the term ‘influencer marketing’ is certainly easier than defining its impact and influence. According to Forbes, an influencer is someone who has the power to influence the perception of others and change their behaviour. Brands partner with influencers who embody the style, beliefs or message of their brand and provide them with a product or service in exchange for a promotional post, with the aim to increase sales, expand reach and improve brand awareness.
How can influencer marketing benefit me?
A benefit of using an influencer is being able to tap into an already engaged audience who are interested in and engaged with the opinions, style or lifestyle of the influencer. With 62% of 18-24-year-olds believing that influencers are “honest about their beliefs and opinions”, influencers are often considered to have impartial and unbiased views making them a far more trustworthy source than a traditional advert or sales copy.
Why is it important to get influencer marketing right?
Social media influencer marketing has had many a success story with the likes of Microsoft, Canon and eBay who have all utilised this trend to positively impact their campaigns, sales, public relations and brand image. However, with such influence and impact comes great responsibility. Misalignment of a brand with the wrong influencer or ignoring strict advertising guidelines can damage reputation, dissuade customers and even result in legal proceedings.
One of the most infamous social media influencer campaigns of recent years, known for both its unparalleled success and its unequivocal failure, was FYRE festival. Set to outshine world-renowned festivals such as Coachella and Glastonbury, this exclusive and luxury music festival was endorsed by social media influencers such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid who were reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for Instagram posts. This generated impressive results within a targeted, young and affluent community who went on to pay tens of thousands of dollars for tickets. As shown by the recent Netflix and Hulu documentary, the influencers ended up facing court cases and fines after the ill-fated festival fell to its knees and was far from the luxury experience that was promised on social media. Influencers failed to declare they were paid for their posts, and therefore leading their followers to believe this was a genuine endorsement and recommendation by the influencer.
How can I ensure my influencer marketing strategy is compliant?
This, amongst other cases, brings to light the ethics and responsibility of PR and marketing professionals on social media influencer campaigns and the need for transparency when declaring when an advert is an advert. The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) have released a guide to influencer marketing that outlines the responsibility to declare gifted and paid opportunities. In summary, content qualifies as an advert if:
- The brand has paid the influencer (with either money, products and/or services) for the content AND
- The brand had some form of editorial ‘control’ over the influencer’s content, even this is just final approval.
According to the CAP Code (Committee of Advertising Practices), it is not prescribed exactly how an ad must be declared, as long it is done so in an obvious way. On Instagram, this is often done through the means of a hashtag (#ad #advert #advertisement #gifted) – simply mentioning the brand simply does not cut it. As a brand, it is important to seek professional advice before posting content to ensure you are using this powerful marketing tool in a compliant and beneficial way.
The importance of trust when it comes to using influencers
The success of the PR industry is based on trust and building relationships and this has never been more true in a world of fake news, scams and ‘astroturfing’ (when something looks like something real, but isn’t). As the President of the CIPR Sarah Hall states, “the law is simple – the public have a right to distinguish between authentic and paid-for endorsements and adverts. As PR professionals, we have an ethical responsibility to ensure brands and influencers comply with the law”. As influencer marketing flourishes in popularity, we have a corporate responsibility to be both transparent and legally compliant in order to preserve and build this trust with our consumers, whether that be relating to our own content or the content of the influencer who endorse our brand(s).
If you’re looking for guidance for your next influencer or social media marketing campaign, give our team a call on 0113 430 4160 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.