The Business of Influence

6th June 2019 by Natasha Cobby

Fashion, travel, beauty, politics, food, incredibly specific pictures of dogs that look like muffins – you name it, there’s an influencer capitalising on it, and it’s likely you follow at least one of them.

You may have noticed a surge in a few particular hashtags over the last six months or so such as #ad, #gifted, and #sponsored. That’s because in September of last year, the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) issued a set of guidelines in order to help influencers clarify whether their posts qualify as ads, and consequently, reprimand those who do not adhere to said guidelines. In principle, this is a great step – consumers have the right to know when they are being advertised to.

However, while certainly a step in the right direction, how exactly does one regulate an industry that by nature, transcends geographical borders? Influencers collaborate with brands all over the globe, each hailing from nations regulated by a different set of rules. Some influencers I follow who live outside the UK have adopted the ASA’s guidelines to provide clarity for their international followers, but many have not.

This isn’t to say they are purposely trying to break the rules, they just don’t live in the UK, and neither does most of their following. The UK has set the trend in influencer regulations, and as regulation of social media itself is an increasingly hot topic, it will be interesting to see how different regions react and the policies they may choose to implement.

From an agency perspective here in the UK, we’ve noticed some immediate effects following the regulations. Most notably is the increase in influencers requesting payment on top of a gifted product or experience, and the increase in payment fee itself. This is likely because if you have to disclose that an experience is #gifted, you may as well charge a fee and replace that hashtag with #sponsored.

It’s clear we are still in the infancy of social media regulations, and there’s a lot of talk around the potential effects of these guidelines on Influencer Marketing. As an agency, we only experience one side of the coin, and we’d like to reach out to influencers to get their perspective on the new regulations too. If you or someone you know is an influencer, we’d love for you to complete a short survey to provide insight into the influencer experience, click HERE to take part.

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