Social Media guidelines for Influencers- Will they "Influence" enough?

None of us is a stranger to influencer marketing techniques employed by businesses to promote their products and services. Digital and social media has taken off as a marketing and advertising platform in the past few years, turning influencers into a marketing tool. As content creators on social media began gaining popularity, several businesses started roping them in for enhancing brand awareness on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Influencer marketing empowers brands to market their products and services in a more personable and cost-effective way. According to a report released by Zefmo Media in 2019, nearly 65% of strategists and marketers revealed that influencer marketing had helped them substantially improve their brand awareness and recall. Around 50% of them agreed that the marketing technique is an effective way of managing the brand’s reputation as well as consumer sentiments along with reaching out to new audiences.

As influencer marketing took off, it was also accompanied by social media malpractices and fraud being committed by several pseudo influencers, along with the persisting menace of fake news, owing to the lack of fact-checking and absence of concrete guidelines for influencer advertising.

In light of the rising concerns regarding social media advertising, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has decided to lay down some guidelines to safeguard the interest of the public. As per the newly drafted guidelines, influencers and brands would be required to add prominent disclosure labels with all kinds of sponsored content that is being shared online. The draft suggests that all sponsored content must contain a disclosure in the description of the post or be superimposed on the video or photo in case of the absence of a description.

While it is all but a new concept for Indian businesses and influencers alike, influencer marketing regulations have become a norm in several western countries in the past few years. Similar to the new guidelines by ASCI, America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires all social media influencers to reveal their relationship with the brands within their posts. 

To comply with these guidelines, social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube made provisions for the influencers to add “paid partnership with X” tags and disclosure statements.

The new guidelines are aimed at promoting transparency between the influencer and their audience and also elevate the level of trust between the consumer, influencer and the brand. It would also ensure that the audience is aware of whether the post they are viewing is a paid promotion or an organic post by the influencer.

Nothing, however, is written in stone yet. The latest draft of these suggested guidelines is open for debate and feedback until the 8th of March, post which ASCI would release the final guidelines on the 31st of March. The new guidelines are expected to be applicable to all sponsored content starting on the 15th of April.

Written by Manas Gulati, co-founder, and CEO, #ARM Worldwide

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