Marking posts with #ad, #advertisement, #sponsored or #gifted, adds another layer of authenticity and integrity to influencer content where followers will be able to distinguish between organic and branded content. Last year there were rumours that the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) would require influencers to mark all sponsored social media posts as such and it’s finally a reality.
Although quite a lot of local influencers are already doing this, the ARB is finally enforcing this code. This comes after an influencer failed to disclose a trade exchange with a big automobile brand. The decision is welcomed by both influencers and the rest of the industry, as it will provide full transparency to audiences.
Audiences don’t like being lied to, and in the past, they would get some sort of signal from influencers that they were either paid for the posts, or that they were sent products to post about, but some didn’t always do that. The new ARB Social Media Code is quite specific about not misleading consumers. Pretending that content is organic, when it’s not, is inauthentic, which is a big no-no as an influencer. This is seen in the same light as buying followers or engagement and can lead to reputational damage to these influencers and the brands associated with them.
The fact is that influencers with integrity and credibility who work with brands and products that already align with their own brands aren’t worried about marking their posts. Their audiences already like their content and are interested in products that can add value to their interests and therefore won’t affect their engagement rates.
It’s important to note that not all the responsibility rests on influencers’ shoulders. According to the ARB’s Social Media Code, brands must be clear of their expectations to influencers and ensure that they give them correct and clear information; and be satisfied that they understand it in order to avoid misleading consumers in their social media posts. The brand and influencers will be held equally responsible if this is the case. Brands are also required to have a written contract in place with all paid influencers and it must include:
• Details of the brief.
• Remuneration (cash or cash equivalent), details and conditions of payment.
• The obligation to publish only own content or to clearly disclose or credit the content creator, if and when the content is not self-created.
• Mandatory disclosures and industry specific marketing regulations required by the marketer’s industry
The move by the ARB is a step in the right direction to regulate the influencer industry and will start weeding out the charlatans. This is good news for influencers and brands alike. It will ensure more authentic partnerships and campaigns with the right influencers for brands, which will lead to better campaign results.