Once known as the chicest it-career of the moment, being a ‘blogger’ has now been replaced by a sparkling new title called ‘influencer’ — a buzzworthy position that refers to celebrities with enormous Instagram followers, models of similar ranks and blue tick verified bloggers that hold the power of persuading the way you shop and discover new brands.
Before the emergence of social media and blogging which was a little over a decade ago, leading fashion publications were the only source for the latest in trends, luxury brands and its product lines. Advertisers and their relationships with magazines aren’t unknown to the avid glossy page reader — they are integral to the magazine’s monetary success and brand awareness of their own. A relationship that was well understood but never questioned by common masses regarding the status of their paid to promote disclosures.
Over time, social media platforms have given everyone an opportunity to become a broadcaster or publisher. The public reach that influencers have gained over time through platforms like Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that have aided them in offering more than a bird’s-eye view into their lives and personal opinions have turned audiences into happy stalkers that are devouring every update they share by the second — a scenario that made for a very delectable business playground for brands to dip their money in. Endorsements that were once the norm for celebrities have now become huge ball game for fashion bloggers, models and public figures alike with their renewed statuses as influencers. But why did the authenticity of their brand alliances start getting questioned?
TRIBE, an Australian marketplace connecting social media influencers with leading brands states that influencers with 50k-100k followers can make as much as AU $350 to $500 per post, but even having just 3,000 fans could garner $75 to $150 for one picture. This money minting career has led to a rise of social media stars to resort to a tactic that either discloses promotions in a way that isn’t obvious or fail to officially state sponsored posts altogether. A result of which led to an agency of the U.S. government charged with protecting consumers against unfair or deceptive business practices, namely Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to place them under the spotlight.
In mid-April, apparently in response to a petition filed by activist group Public Citizen, the FTC issued informal warning letters to dozens of “Instagram influencers” stating that their paid posts on the platform didn’t include sufficient disclosures in an attempt to remind them that they are required by law to “clearly and conspicuously” disclose the commercial relationship. Two months after the debacle, Instagram decided to add a new feature to their platform, a “paid partnership with” tool will let creators quickly tag the business they have a relationship with.
What’s interesting to note is that audiences don’t seem to mind when an influencer posts an #ad even when they do disclose it. In an era where millennials have grown to know that the dresses celebrities wear on the red carpet aren’t exactly bought by them or come from their personal closets or that they probably don’t use the shampoo they promote on television — they’d much rather just focus on the content than the paid tag and sniff out the best brands for themselves.