Social media influencers and advertisers beware

The Advertising Regulatory Board recently proposed new rules for brands and influencers on social media which aims to bring much needed guidelines and transparency to the South African industry.

Essentially the draft Advertising Code of Practice Social Media Guidelines sets out to protect the public when it comes to social media advertising.

These guidelines not only applies to companies and brands but also to social media influencers. Both will have to declare advertising, sponsorships and exchanges of goods and services

Practically, this will mean ensuring that all paid social media ads are identifiable as such eg. tagging content with “#AD”, “#Advertisement”, or “#Sponsored”.

The aim is to provide greater transparency to consumers in promoting more ethical and responsible content. Content must not be misleading in any way.

All too often we see examples of endorsements for products or services that are so clearly paid-for promotions, but don’t carry any form of acknowledgement of such. When last did you fire up your Instagram or Facebook and read a post that sounds too “on-brand” to be truly authentic?

For example, the lifestyle blogger / influencer who posts daily about this or that hotel stay, restaurant, wine farm, farmer’s market with gorgeous photographs, hashtags galore and songs of praise. Or the parenting bloggers touting the next Eco-friendly nappy or baby carrier.

These individuals (and there are obviously many, many more) will be required to indicate that their posts are #sponsored, #promoted or #ads to avoid any confusion that their comments or recommendations are based on their own personal experience over a reasonable amount of time.

Furthermore, the nature of their relationship with the particular brand needs to be clearly explained.

This is not to be confused with the average consumer paying for their own goods and posting about their own experiences, but rather those individuals / bloggers / influencers who receive products, payment or some other barter deal in exchange for promotion of those products. And honestly, you should be able to spot these a mile away (Tip: almost every product giveaway/competition ever).

There are stellar examples of brands and influencers getting this wrong – Fyre festival anyone?

But then there are some who are making strides to indicate the intent of their content. Take Binging with Babish and My Rhythm of Life as two examples.

I think this is a step in the right direction and I look forward to seeing greater transparency in the industry.

The final guidelines will be released in April 2019.