Social networks are an essential area for advertisers considering a mobile-specific advertising strategy, given that around 80% of all social traffic is mobile.

Of the dominant giants, Facebook is turning 15 years old, and its impact on the marketing world in this relatively short span has been huge. The pace of growth has been so impactful that companies are coming under ever more scrutiny from both advertising brands and political powers. More recently, the spotlight has been on influencers and the transformative impact they have on the way brands speak with their audiences.

Unregulated social media influencer marketing can mislead potential customers, such as in the case of the Fyre Festival.
Unregulated social media influencer marketing can mislead potential customers, such as in the case of the Fyre Festival.

Social media has changed the shape of advertising and given birth to influencers, though their power is still being underestimated in the mainstream world.

Influencers are media stars born on social platforms. This offers the industry a medium for brands to reach mass markets of extremely engaged audiences through an authentic voice. The speed at which these stars have risen to fame has, however, been without restriction and is, so far, unregulated.

After hitting the headlines, some of the most influential stars have now agreed to declare when they have been paid or gifted by a brand in a bid to remain transparent to their fans. These guidelines are:

  • Influencers must clearly label content that has been paid for or for which they have received gifts or loans. They do this by marking content as #ad or #sponsored, for example, and these must now be prominently displayed at the beginning of the post rather than buried away among other hashtags.
  • Even gifts that are made without a requirement to post about them afterward must be declared if they appear in social media content. The suggested label is #freebie.
  • It is no longer enough for influencers to declare the companies they work for in their profiles. Each post must be treated in isolation and all paid content or commercial relationships declared.
  • If an influencer is engaged in various commercial relationships related to an individual post, each one must be declared.

While these are small steps, it’s interesting to see the openness in which the stars have announced this to their fans. These fans would rather be fully transparent to remain authentic. They’d also like to avoid full regulation scrutiny, as demonstrated by the Netflix documentary on the Fyre Festival, which drew attention to the industry. The documentary shows the danger of influencer marketing hype and what happens when stars don’t disclose the investment behind their posts or fully understand the intentions of the brands with which they are working.

Brands need to be aware of how powerful influencers can be while maintaining integrity by choosing the right representatives for their brand association. Brands need to be aware of the context in which influencer marketing sits. Advertising in such a native context can be less clear that a brand is paying for the space versus a television spot, for example, so being clear the content is paid for is essential.

It should also be considered that while it can be incredibly powerful, brands need to ensure they are measuring the right metrics and not get trapped in the hype. Much like all digital advertising, it’s important to ask how this will impact the business outcome.