The Foggy Future of Influencer Marketing

Recently, celebrity influencers have come under a bit of fire. The Fyre Festival incident, for example, shed light on the potential inauthenticity of celebrity influencers and the possible legal issues associated with celebrity endorsements on social media. In March, the FTC sent out more than 90 letters reminding celebrity influencers that they should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through their social media accounts.

The letter states, “The FTC’s Endorsement Guides state that if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and the marketer of a product – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless the connection is already clear from the context of the communication containing the endorsement. Material connections could consist of a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the provision of free products to the endorser.”

This, however, is not the first time that the FTC has attempted to crack down on celebrity influencers. They have received pressure from the public to be more stringent in enforcing these rules. A group of consumer advocates wrote a letter to the head of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau, which points to many examples of advertisements posted by celebrities on social media that were not marked as ads. It states, ““Undisclosed paid product endorsements continue to persist as a serious problem on Instagram, and the Federal Trade Commission has yet to take action to enforce its policy, which states that paid endorsements should be identified with #advertisement or #ad,” reads the letter, which called for enforcement actions against “serial offenders, marketing agencies and endorsers that continue to violate FTC policy.””

While it is not totally clear how this will affect the use of celebrity influencers as a form of marketing, there is a chance that companies will begin to be more wary of the potential legal risks that are associated with using these celebrity influencers. Companies may not want to use celebrity influencers to promote products if those influencers have to clearly state in the post that they are being paid to advertise the product, as that might rub audiences the wrong way, and be less effective.

But, if the FTC strictly enforces its regulations, that’s just what these influencers will have to do. As the letter from the FTC states, “To make a disclosure both “clear” and “conspicuous,” you

should use unambiguous language and make the disclosure stand out. Consumers should be ableto notice the disclosure easily, and not have to look for it. For example, consumers viewing posts in their Instagram streams on mobile devices typically see only the first three lines of a longer post unless they click “more,” and many consumers may not click “more.” Therefore, you should disclose any material connection above the “more” button. In addition, where there are multiple tags, hashtags, or links, readers may just skip over them, especially where they appear at the end of a long post.”

It seems that marketers and influencers, then, will have to choose between clearly disclosing when they are advertising, or simply not advertising at all. If the use of celebrity influencers as a marketing tool is dwindling in effectiveness, is there another tactic that can be more effective? The answer to that is yes- social media advocacy. Social media advocacy shifts the focus from celebrity influencers promoting brands and products, to actual loyal customers of the company promoting the brands and products. Social media advocates are those people that have had positive experiences with a company and are willing to share messages and content promoting it on social media.

Because these advocates have actually used the product and become loyal customers, they will have more authenticity than celebrity influencers. And while an advocate might not have as much reach or influence as a celebrity influencer, the effects of a combination of many social media advocates can be very powerful.

To make a social media advocacy strategy even more effective, it is necessary to properly manage it. Fanzee is the ultimate social media advocacy platform, which serves to help companies execute social media advocacy campaigns. To learn more about how Fanzee can help, click here.