Influencer marketing and advertising standards: Whom exactly can you trust?

When influencer marketing goes wrong

Hands up if you know what an influencer is. Most of us have heard of the term and understand that online influencers are people who have developed an online following and use that influence to have an impact on the purchase decisions of those who follow them. Trustworthy influencer marketing can bring about a win-win result for all three parties involved; the business, the influencer and the purchaser but there have been infamous cases of influencer marketing going wrong. For example, the now notorious Fyre Festival, which made the double mistake of failing to acknowledge its relationship with influencers and failing to deliver on the festival as promised.

How do I recognise a social media influencer?

We all have different reasons for following people online. Most of us are interested in hearing from people who share our hobbies, work interests or values, and this is what is behind the power of influencer marketing; we are already the interested audience advertisers work so hard to find. In general, this isn’t a negative thing, if you enjoy what someone has to say on a topic, it stands to reason that you might also be interested in the products they recommend. If you notice some of your favourite followers suggesting brands for you to try, you might well be reading the work of an influencer.

Honest influencers will always make their relationship with a brand clear in their comments. The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority states that both the brand and the advertiser to ensure that their followers know when someone is being rewarded, through perks, money or goods for an online recommendation.

‘Consumers must always be aware when they are being advertised to. ‘

They also offer guidelines on how this should be achieved in their comprehensive ‘Influencers’ Guide‘. This gives useful advice on what exactly constitutes advertorial content and how influencers should make it clear when this content exists.

Can I trust social media influencers?

Not all brands and social media influencers follow these guidelines to the letter. The ASA recommends words including words such as, ‘Advert’ or ‘Ad’ in prominent places but some prefer the less obvious, ‘Sponsored’, ‘In association with’ or ‘Thanks to’. If you are a blog reader, any article that contains advertorial content should state the relationship in a clear explanatory paragraph.

By choosing to follow someone on social media you will already have made a decision about whether or not you trust them. The quality of their information and recommendations will probably help you decide whether or not to continue this trust into an influencer relationship. It is perhaps worth remembering that adverts in their various forms have been with us for a long time. Influencer marketing, as long as you can recognise and understand it, is merely a more sophisticated form of what we see on our TV screens and in our newspapers every day.

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