Advertisers are leaving influencers to fend for themselves, and it’s not good enough

Brands aren't taking responsibility for influencer content and instead are expecting social media platforms to be the police force for the industry, according to Social Soup's Sharyn Smith. And it needs to stop.

This week, the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) is calling for feedback on new ethical guidelines for advertising, including influencer marketing.

There has been a lot of mudslinging in recent months around influencer marketing. Driven by ‘famous’ faces that have shown the worst side of a legitimate industry, influencers and those that support them have been getting a bad rap. But this sensationalist debate distorts reality. It focuses on a few bad eggs rather than the thousands of influencers who are effective advocates for brands finding it difficult to reach and connect with their customers. And I believe it’s some of these very brands that are causing a lot of the reputational damage.

While the advertiser is directing large amounts of marketing dollars towards this channel, many are simply hiding in the shadows, evading their responsibility.

This is simply wrong and it needs to change. Across every other marketing discipline where there is a paid relationship, brands clearly endorse that they have chosen to engage with their current or potential customers in this way. Why is it different when it comes to influencer marketing, where brands leave influencers to fend for themselves or expect the social media platforms to be the police force for the industry?

The industry needs to exert stronger pressure on those advertisers to take more responsibility for disclosure and not leave it up to the influencer.

A critical element of transparency is around the control advertisers have on the content produced by influencers on their behalf. If there is any level of control, the brand needs to disclose its involvement.

Unsurprisingly, many brands are nervous about the negative impact that disclosure may have. Yet research shows that this isn’t the case and often there is an increase in trust as a result of disclosure.

Regardless, this type of authenticity and transparency around influencer marketing is a collective responsibility.

We need to balance the responsibility and advertisers need to work with their influencer agencies, the influencers themselves, social platforms, and industry bodies on how this disclosure should look and where it should be placed to ensure it is visible and clear.

This includes becoming involved with the newly formed AIMCo (Australian Influencer Marketing Council) to develop clear guidelines on disclosure.

There are many brands that have embraced the relationship with influencers and proudly demonstrated their commitment to transparency through the campaigns they have run. We need more to follow their lead.

It’s time for all parts of the influencer marketing industry to come together. Without this shared responsibility, the perpetual cycle of bad news stories will continue and influencer marketing as an important channel will fail to see its value recognised.

Sharyn Smith is the founder and CEO of Social Soup

Sharyn Smith will be leading a Mumbrella Masterclass workshop on influencer marketing in both Sydney and Melbourne next month. The interactive session will help you and your company, build a business case for influencer marketing and measure real business results, while discovering how to match your brand and objectives to the right influencers. Book your tickets here.


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