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Advertising verses organic interaction: influencers are having to address their content

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Amelia Neate, senior manager of influencer marketing agency Influencer Matchmaker uncovers why the enforcement of disclosure is now important as a new era of ‘genuinfluencer’ has arrived.

For many years now, social media influencers and online content creators have been somewhat forced to disclose whether the posts they are sharing are in fact a paid-for advertorial or not.  Just as we see on television and in magazines, it is clear what is an ad, and what is not – so why should things be different across social media?

In today’s world, many would say that social media influencers and the content they share is much more impactful than that of more traditional forms, and so the need to honestly disclose ads becomes even more important.

Which is where the Advertising Standards Authority, (ASA), comes into play.

The ASA is the UK’s advertising regulator, ensuring that ads across UK media stick to the rules put in place. From influencer marketing, to print and broadcast, the ASA monitor it all and everything in between.

With the arrival and accessibility of platforms like TikTok and the expansion of content creation from the everyday social media user, there has been a collective shift for generation Z in particular, who have become bored with the celebrity show boater and are more focused on the authenticity and human behind the screen. 

Cultural conversations via influencers have caused movements such a Black Lives Mater, MeToo and even more recently the #FreeBritney campaign that set out to understand and remove the conservatorship that Britney Spears was under post her mental health struggle in 2008. While other media platforms like LadBible and ArchBishopofBanterbury have prided themselves on redefining entertainment – often taking ordinary people with relatable circumstances and making them part of the conversation. 

Like the above outlets, while they are able to monetise with paid for advertisement ahead of videos, it is imperative that the authenticity still comes across in their storytelling and therefore content from real people, addressing real life situations is imperative to the success of the viewership. 

Whilst many popular influencers take pride in appropriately labelling their paid for content, the ASA recently threatened to name and shame influencers failing to stick to the guidelines. 

These days, the GenZ demographic are more sustainable, more ethical and more educated. They want full transparency from brands and from social media, with recent research stating that 82% of followers agreed the importance of influencers disclosing their personal use history with the product they are promoting. But with ASA guidelines being regularly updated, some influencers have struggled to keep up.

And, with it not just being a paid-for advertorial or post that needs to be disclosed influencers must consider how the rules can vary dependant on a typical sponsored post vs integrated videos on YouTube, affiliate links, PR products and press discounts.

Previously, when the industry was in its infancy, brands would send out products to their favourite influencers in the hopes that they would be authentically mentioned on their platforms. Whilst this is still the case, such products must be disclosed as ‘PR product’. 

To some, this may seem slightly overboard, however in this industry, influencers must be conscious to make their audiences aware of what might qualify as a means of payment in order for the consumer to make an educated decision about the purchase of a product based on that influencers testimonial of a brand. If this is backed by a true and genuine story that equally connects their recommendation, then it will clearly better connect with its audience. 

For example, health and fitness influencer Carly Rowena made her mark on the industry because of her love for fitness and nutrition. And, after many years of being recognised for her easy-to-follow workout videos, Instagram posts and blog posts, Carly has teamed up with Halo Fitness to create her very own range of activewear. Because of her genuine love and passion for finding the perfect workout gear for many years, it seemed a natural and obvious choice for Carly to launch such a collection.

In the next year, 63% of marketers intend to increase their influencer marketing budget. Instagram is also extending its shopping features, testing its Shop tab, which will allow users to click and view extra product details quicker. 

The introduction of these features will certainly be the becoming of new sponsored ad additions for the ASA guidelines and with more consumers demanding such transparency influencers must keep ahead of the curve when it comes to genuine and purposeful content in order to reach a profit.

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