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Influencer technology platform Tribe calls on industry to develop overall code of conduct

Influencer technology platform Tribe has called on the blogger and influencer industry to look at adopting an industry-wide code of conduct in an attempt to improve standards around transparency.

Stephen Von Muenster and Anthony speaking at Commscon last week.

Stephen Von Muenster (left) and Anthony Svirskis (right) at CommsCon: “We need to talk about this code of conduct for the good of the industry”

In the wake of regular instances of bloggers and influencers being caught out for failing to disclose paid posts, Tribe’s CEO Anthony Svirskis last week suggested the industry look at adopting or taking up parts of its code of conduct for users on its platform.

“We implemented this code of conduct or code of ethics because we wanted to use our voice to help establish a set of principles that we felt would give longevity, authenticity and legitimacy to the industry,” Svirskis told Mumbrella at last week’s CommsCon event.

“We certainly don’t say we are the authority figure,” he added. “But we need to talk about this code of conduct for the good of the industry.”

Media lawyer Stephen Von Muenster, who helped formulate the Tribe code noted, in a panel discussion on whether the industry needed a code of practice in this area, how Australia was trailing the rest of the world in the area of influencer disclosure.

“In Australia this is all frontier legal area,” said Von Muenster. “At the moment you don’t need to disclosure that you are an influencer like you do in the US.

“However, if you omit to say you are an influencer and are getting some sort of incentive – financial or otherwise – and your community may not know that it may be misleading or deceptive conduct.

“The only guidance we have around is in the traditional space around endorsements and testimonials,” he said, citing the high-profile Ian Turpie case endorsement court case where the celebrity was found to have falsely represented a product had used.

“From that law you have to be able to reasonably demonstrate that you have believe what you say and have used the product.”

In Australia there have been a number of high-profile cases where influencers and brands, including the likes of Australia Post, have been caught out not declaring paid posts.

Another panel member at the CommsCon discussion, Vivenne Ryan, director of Gravia Media, was asked if it was only through cases of influencers and brands being caught out and the threat of legislative code that the industry would act.

“I don’t think there needs to be a major catastrophe but I think what we are doing is raising awareness,” said Ryan. We are taking the initiative so we don’t need a massive scandal for us to take up our responsibilities.

“I would hate to see the instantaneous nature of what social media provides then gets highly regulated in terms of what you have to comply with.”

Svirskis noted that his code was broken down into simple parts: ” The code has three aspects: authenticity, transparency and the influencer giving more than they are taking.

“What we tried to do was embed the principles in the Tribe business model,” he said.

Von Muenster said he believed that without an industry-wide code it was only a matter of time before this issue hit the courts.

“We can pretty much infer that the next court case that comes along will be about this,” he said.

“Rather than saying here’s a code you have to follow and shoving it down everyone’s throat it is more about the lay influencer – who doesn’t know this thing – but if you follow a code that is more like a code of ethics than code of conduct is a better approach.”

Nic Christensen

The full Tribe code of conduct:

CODES OF CONDUCT – INFLUENCER MARKETING

Since inception, TRIBE has been committed to establishing and promoting best practice principles to help legitimize the maturing category of Influencer Marketing.

TRIBE partnered with Stephen Von Muenster, to craft a set of T&C’s (found here) that are designed to help brands and influencers put consumers first.

As a collective, we then met with the ACCC and found they were satisfied TRIBE was going above and beyond their related guidelines to set guiding principles to protect the industry as a whole.

TRIBE’S THREE GUIDING PRINCIPLES:

1 Be AUTHENTIC

2 Be TRANSPARENT

3 GIVE more than you TAKE

 

HOW TRIBE UPHOLDS THESE:

1. Be AUTHENTIC

Citizen influencers choose brands. To help promote authenticity, TRIBE flipped the model on its head. In TRIBE, Influencers choose the brands they already use.

We’ve found reaching out to Influencers with cash incentives can dramatically alter their existing posting behaviour.

Sampling is discouraged. Traditionally, brands send influencers products to feature, however TRIBE believes if an Influencer doesn’t already own the product, or isn’t willing to purchase it, how can they recommend their audience does?

Purchase as a consumer, not as an influencer.

The second test to an influencer’s authenticity is that on TRIBE, even if they’ve purchased the product they are not guaranteed to receive payment from the brand. Therefore, influencers must be willing to purchase products as a genuine consumer, as opposed to buying a propfor a sponsored post.

“We received a complaint from an Influencer who said “I just bought a Grill’d burger, took a pic, and my submission was declined. What did I get out of all that?” We replied “You got a delicious burger, at the same priceall those you’re recommending it to have to pay” It’s important ourinfluencers understand our number one rule: If you wouldn’t recommend itfor free, don’t recommend it for money.” Anthony Svirskis, TRIBE CEO

Scripting is not permitted. Many platforms are comfortable with brandsputting words in the mouth of Influencers, but the ACCC is not a fan.Engagement is driven by the voice of the influencer, not the brand.

 

2. Be TRANSPARENT

At every opportunity TRIBE urges influencers to disclose sponsorship.

Although disclosure isn’t mandatory in Australia, like it is in the UK and theUS, it’s important to put your followers first and communicate that it’ssponsored. We don’t represent the influencers, so we rely on their Talent Agencies to help educate them on transparency.

 

3. GIVE more than you TAKE

You can’t grow an audience without upholding this principle. Mostinfluencers have done it unknowingly, but it’s important to TRIBE that wehighlight its importance now they can monetize.

Ask “What does my tribe get from this?”

We recommend products, not only because we love the brands butbecause we love our friends. Sponsored or not, this should always be themain motivation of Influencer Marketing.

Don’t over-publish sponsored content. Maintaining a generous balance,and not promoting competing brands in quick succession, are just a fewways Influencers maintain credibility with their audience.

 

HOW DO WE KNOW GUIDELINES ARE WORKING?

• By giving influencers the power to chose brands they already know andlove, the audience engagement of our Influencers continues to grow,we’ve facilitated 100s of posts with engagement upwards of 10%.

• Even more encouraging is that 98% of all our sponsored posts remain onthe influencer’s feed long after the 30 day commitment is up.Demonstrating they’re just as proud of that content as they are of any other.

• At this stage 15% of our influencers do you #spon. This % is rising rapidly,and our data shows there is no noticeable change in engagement withdisclosure.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS IF THESE AREN’T UPHELD?

• Audience backlash which reflects poorly on brands and influencers and noone wants – through TRIBE there is an obligation for an influencer tomoderate, yet when the core principles are upheld, there’s very little risk inaudience rejecting the content and we’re yet to see this as an issue in

TRIBE.

• If you have a product or service that was likely to attract controversy orcriticism, then a media which allows for feedback is not ideal.

• There’s a risk to the longevity of the industry. We compete in the industrywith a number of other companies, and if they compromise theseguidelines for a quick win, or short term dollar, then it detracts from the media as a genuine marketing channel

 

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