Weren’t We Always Told Not To Follow Strangers? Well, Social Media Influencers Are A Different Kettle Of Fish
The era that we live in, labeled by many as an information revolution, has brought along many new challenges that aren’t always easy to understand. For example, the figures of ‘social media influencers’ did not exist a decade ago, and its role within a society was equally vacant.
Let’s start with the basics: What are social media influencers?
Broadly speaking, social media influencers are legal or physical persons that exerts influence over other people, usually through the use of media. By extension, a social media influencer is a person that exerts influence over ‘followers’ through social media channels and networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or any other similar platforms.
Some well-known examples of social media influencers include Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus, but the title of influencer isn’t exclusive to TV or music celebrities: lifestyle bloggers, it girls, gamers and many others have been capable of amassing large crowds of followers in social media while remaining unbeknownst to the majorities.
An Old Practice, A New Disguise
Social media influencers usually make a living out of endorsements and sponsorship deals. Most of them can be regarded as ‘niche opinion leaders’ who advertise specific products or services to their followers. This practice, however, has been questioned for a very specific reason: In a staggering number of cases, the endorsement deals between brands and influencers are not disclosed to the audience. Why does this matter? Lack of disclosure is important because it can damage a brand’s image and erode the audience’s trust over the information they’re receiving.
Official research estimates that more than half of UK adults use online reviews. Given the reach that influencers have attained thanks, the practice of not disclosing an endorsement deal has recently been labeled as potentially unlawful by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and businesses that mislead consumers may be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The Full Picture Of Social Media Influencers
Social media, blogs, videos and online publications influence our buying decisions, and the advertising of products and services through social media is a perfectly legal action that has given a healthy impulse to many businesses and brands. Nevertheless, it’s very important to disclose any kind of advertising and to do it in compliance with the consumer protection and intellectual property laws. It is important to note that failing to do so can result in enforcement, possibly leading to civil and criminal action.
Most relevant practices recommended by the CMA to influencers and marketing professionals include:
- Instructing online publications, bloggers and social media personalities to clearly label or identify paid promotions and ensuring this is put into practice.
- Clearly identifying paid promotions they create themselves.
- Ensuring their policies reflect the requirements of consumer protection law and that their staff-members are aware of the requirements of the law.
- Turning down requests from businesses to arrange paid promotions which are not clearly labelled or identified.
To conclude, the law asks for nothing but fair game:If you are a business leader or a social media influencer (or a business leader who wants to work with an influencer), the best practice is to ‘reveal the deal’, and to be in compliance with the law.
Staying transparent about endorsements not only reduces legal risks for businesses and social media influencers, but also builds trust – a vital commodity in this, our information era.
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