Brands and Instagram influencers warned about misleading and illegal posts

Brands and influencers should be aware of the legalities of social media posts, particularly on Instagram, a legal expert has warned.

Stephen Von Muenster, principal at DVM Law, told a room of marketers at Mumbrella’s Health and Wellness Marketing Summit that if a post is misleading, then it is illegal.

Von Muenster says influencers and brands can easily be liable if their posts or messages are misleading

“Just remember if your message is so successful and it gets out there and everyone is using the hashtag and everyone is seeing that and it’s being re-grammed or it’s being amplified in different ways, but at its core its misleading, it is wrong, it’s illegal,” he said.

“The more people that are mislead, the more the liability may be for the brand.

“At its core let’s get that messaging right and make sure we comply with the laws,” Von Muenster said.

The principal of DVM Law explained to the audience of ‘The Belle Gibson Factor: The Pitfalls and Benefits of using Influencers in the Health Space’ there are two legal factors to an ‘Influencer claim’.

If an influencer claims they are using a particular product or service then they must actually use the product in day-to-day life and posters also must specify whether or not they are getting paid for the post or receiving value of some kind in return.

Von Muenster noted there had not yet been a legal prosecution case relating to an Instagram post, however, he predicted the first case “will be the accidental stepping over the line and suggesting you have more qualifications than you do”.

“Is it clearly distinguishable for the purpose of the code?” Von Muenster encouraged brands to ask.

The global talent director at VAMP – Visual Amplifiers, Monique Llewellyn, provided the audience with a definition on what an influencer is.

“Influencers are people who really have a lifestyle that somebody covets and there’s a difference between making claims and having an authority over a certain area in terms of health and somebody who is living an active, healthy, wellness lifestyle that are promoting products they use as part of their own lifestyle,” Llewellyn said.

Llewellyn and Von Muenster, Bennett

Addressing Belle Gibson’s scandal, the global talent director noted brands have learnt to “fine tune how they protect themselves” and “fine tune who they work with,” being very selective in the influencers they choose.

Llewellyn offered advice to brands looking to work with influencers, saying business’ should choose an influencer who aligns with the brand and the message they are projecting.

“[Align] yourself with people who aren’t making claims.

“It is about that connection and having someone that feels real and they are aspirational but they are also attainable and you can imagine yourself being that person.

“It is about finding people who really match your audience,”Llewellyn told the room of marketers.

Having a balance between sponsored and organic content will benefit both influencers and brands, building their reputation and credibility, the talent director added.

“It is about finding that balance,” she said noting product integration and product saturation is also imperative.

“There is a real difference between product integration and product saturation within an image, so content is becoming really important and how people creatively showcase that product.

“You don’t want to do a campaign  where you see essentially the same photo across multiple influencers, and you do start to see it really spamming your feed, so it is about working with influencers and not being strict on what they have to do in terms of what the content looks like.”

The director of Bennett PR, Brittany Bennett, agreed with Llewellyn saying the number of followers an influencer has is not something she cares about.

“What I do care about is their message,” she said noting once posts get to Facebook, that is where Bennett sees most of the results and sales.

Bennett also said brands and organisations engaging in influencer marketing need to look at the different motivators and who the target audience is.

“What is going to get them in the door? You also have to be responsible.

“People want the education they, want to see what’s going on, then they want to see the person they look up to, say the personal trainer to see what they eat, but then they also may want to see a normal person applying it to their day,” Bennett said.


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