As with any new industry, with innovation comes the need for regulation. In the USA, the Federal Trade Commission has already issued regulations, in the UK these fall under the Advertising Standards Authority – but risking regulatory surveillance shouldn’t be the only motivation to comply; transparency can be beneficial to a brand’s campaign and building audience trust overall.
Types of partnership
A brand can partner for a sponsored post - much in the same way that a magazine would write an advertorial. These posts or videos should be labelled as advertisement features or promotions.
On average around one or two per cent of people who click on bloggers’ links will purchase a reviewed or promoted product, with commissions paid varying between advertisers and product price points. The click to sale conversion rate will increase depending on how engaged the audience is. For example, one influencer working with Awin with a following of 14k on Instagram and 500k monthly page views on their website sold £750k worth of products for the retailers they featured over the course of a year.
Disclosing commercial relationships
According to The Awin Report, in April 2017 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published an open letter in which they highlighted three particular cases where companies had failed to clearly identify when they had paid bloggers or online publications for featuring products in their blog content and articles. They concluded that everyone involved in endorsing products and services online has a responsibility to ensure they are appropriately labelled as such. This extends to bloggers, vloggers and those posting via social media channels alongside traditional publishing operations such as online newspapers. Consumer protection law states that paid-for editorial content has to be labelled as such.
Influencers should familiarise themselves with how to best disclose to their followers when their content is monetised. Brands should also ensure that the influencers they work with are compliant with this to safeguard their reputation. The Advertising Standards’ Agency (ASA) in the UK issued guidance in conjunction with the Code of Advertising Practice (CAP) about affiliate marketing. This includes an infographic detailing how on-site disclaimers can be displayed. Awin has a one-page website - Paid for Advertising - which explains how free content can have a commercial relationship attached to it. This can be linked to by any affiliate.
The influencer builds a relationship with their followers and this relationship relies on authenticity and trust. Concerns around recommendations being made based on financial reward are minimised when the credentials of the influencer and engaged people who share interests with them are considered.
The future of disclosure
The Awin Report discusses the potential development of disclosure in the future. A self-regulatory approach has worked well for voucher code sites, enabling experts to determine what the standards within their field are and create clear guidelines.
As a global industry, despite the nuances in the maturity of the influencer business model in different markets, the future will probably be increasingly universal.
Tips for influencers:
- Ensure advertising links and associated content are labelled as advertising
- Use the 'paid partnership' label on Instagram and on Twitter use #ad
- A disclosure sentence to the footer of a website will make it present on every page of the site. Also make sure each individual sponsored post is disclosed as such so that audiences can differentiate this amongst other non-commercial posts.