Who could have guessed when it just barely started that influencer marketing would become such a big part of digital marketing campaigns? Back in 2015, brands were just finding out about the selling power those boys and girls next door could have on their loyal and engaged audience. Fast forward a few years and influencer marketing is now a branch of marketing on its own as well as a tool used by many brands in all industries. However, as it became more and more used a marketing tool, came the issue of brand deal disclosure.
Influencer marketing in 2020 is not like what it was in 2015. Nowadays, being a content creator is a full-time job and revenue mostly comes from brand deals and social media promotions. However, just like with any type of advertising, it is important to disclose the relationship between the brand and the influencer.
Why is disclosure essential in influencer marketing?
Unfortunately, the newness of influencer marketing as well as the disparity between countries make it difficult to have an harmonized system. For example, while the UK’s ASA is very strict on disclosure guidelines, the US’ FTC is a bit more lenient. What matters most in all cases is that the influencer is not misleading their audience.
Disclosure in influencer marketing is very important from a brand’s prospective, for the influencer and for legal reasons.
Authenticity matters in influencer marketing
Instagram started as a way to share moments online with friends and followers. It quickly became a way to share one’s lifestyle and passion. As the platform grew, competition did too. Thus, influencers had to create more innovative content to catch the attention of users.
Instagram became a way to sell the perfect life. It quickly became a photoshopped representation of life. As a consequence, it became difficult to know what is true or isn’t.
That is when authenticity provides a breath of fresh air online. Authenticity helps with continuing and increasing the level of trust your influencers’ followers will feel and experience.
Thanks to those positive emotions and level of trust, followers will continue to buy in and purchase the influencer’s favorite items and promoted products. Authenticity is a straightforward way for your influencer and their audience to connect together!
When an influencer clearly discloses at the beginning of their caption that the post is a promotion and paid for, they are being transparent and completely honest with their audience. Transparency can only increase trust.
Followers can see through you
Even when an influencer does not disclose a paid promotion, the wording of the caption, the hashtag used or the way the product is presented will make it obvious that the post is indeed an ad. And people will see that straight away.
An influencer’s audience realizing that a paid promotion is not disclosed correctly will question the authenticity of the influencer, their motivation as well as their honesty. After all, why would an Instagrammer not disclose the ad?
A common reason that influencers and brands give is that audiences engage less with posts that are clearly ads. This has been proven wrong many times since being a content creator is now accepted as a full-time job that needs paid promotion to get revenue. Furthermore, influencers that are transparent from day one about the type of products they promote will not see a decline in engagement.
Indeed, a lot of influencers know how crucial trust and authenticity is important to keep their audience engaged. Thus, they will not promote products they do not believe in nor like.
However, not disclosing paid promotion might lead to a break of trust between the influencer and the audience as the latter will see through the non-disclosure fairly quickly.
Honesty is crucial for your brand
Lack of paid partnership disclosure can have two explanations: the influencer just did not see the need to disclose; or the brand asked them not to. While the former happens less and less frequently, the latter is not unheard of.
When influencers are asked to not disclose brand collaborations, they are rather vocal about it online. More often than not, the brands involved get a bad reputation amongst both influencers and followers.
Influencer disclosure ultimately looks good on the brand. Being seen as an honest company leads to trust and loyalty, which leads to consumer dollars. The best type of customer is a loyal customer.
While influencer marketing and brand partnerships are a great way to reach an audience that you might otherwise not connect with before, incorporating influencer disclosure into your campaign can keep them coming back with each new product and launch.
Get the data behind disclosure
Paid promotion disclosure is great to strengthen trust between an influencer and their audience, improve transparency and show a brand as honest. Furthermore, since most sponsored posts will have an hashtag ad at the beginning of the caption, the hashtag will gather all paid promotions together.
This will allow brands to get data from brand partnerships. Should influencers use the “sponsored” feature on Instagram or add a specific word to their caption, brands will then be able to compare paid for and organic posts.
The Harvard Business Review did an extended study on the relationship to influencer disclosure and purchase intentions. They found that “disclosure makes almost no difference to the impact of the influencer’s recommendation on the purchase decision”.
In conclusion, sponsored content does not prevent an influencer from connecting to their audience nor does it prevent them from buying. This influencer’s recommendation is likely to have become the most purchase part in the purchase decisions.
Sponsored content can also contribute to show that influencers do indeed have a huge impact on purchase decisions. Influencer disclosure has become a positive addition to influencer marketing and should certainly be used within your influencer partnership.
Advertising authorities do not joke around
Last but not least, disclosure is important for influencer marketing simply because it is now in most countries a legal requirement. Social media influencers must clearly disclose brand partnerships and that brands work with law-compliant creators.
Each country has different guidelines and requirements. However, influencers still have a duty to be as transparent as possible. They must do anything they can to avoid misleading their audiences. Some advertising authorities like the ASA in the UK now have a system allowing complain about influencers not following guidelines.
Brands can only ask their influencers to abide to those guidelines. It would be bad for their reputation if they did not.
Disclosure is important for influencer marketing. Indeed, it allows for transparency, honesty, to get interesting data and improve trust. Furthermore, it confirms the impact of influencers in purchase decisions.