Regulations governing how social media influencers advertise products online are confusing and unclear with the UK public overwhelmingly believing the system should be more transparent, new research reveals. The comprehensive survey into influencer marketing, published today, was carried out on behalf of Prizeology, a prize promotions agency specialising in promotional regulation and compliance and looked at how the public perceive rules and regulations around influencer marketing.
The research, carried out on 2015 members of the general public, looked at influencer marketing on social media platforms covering Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. It overwhelmingly showed that there is a worrying lack of knowledge around the rules governing advertising by influencers. An overwhelming majority – 71% of people – wrongly believe that there are no regulations surrounding influencer marketing. 61% believe that influencers do not have to state that they have been paid to talk about a product. This is incorrect, because under consumer protection legislation, influencers must state if they are being paid to promote a brand’s products. More surprisingly, the confusion cuts across generations. 33% of the 49% of the UK public who were unaware of the relevant language or tags like #ad, that show that there is product promotion, were young people aged between 18-24.
The research clearly showed that the general public believe that they should be informed if people are being paid to promote products – a staggering 88% of the general public agreed with this statement with 60% agreeing that their perception of a brand is improved when they are transparent about product promotion.
Sarah Burns, Managing Director of Prizeology and a leading expert in compliance and regulation in the promotional marketing sector said:
“The results are extremely interesting and overwhelmingly show a shocking lack of knowledge and confusion amongst all age groups – including teenagers – about the way that brands use social media influencers to advertise their products. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has a tough job on its hands, but more must be done to enforce the rules and educate the public and influencers themselves as to what is acceptable and what is not. In fact, our survey revealed that 71% of those we questioned feel that the ASA should be doing more to force disclosure.
“Interestingly, almost half of the people we questioned (44%) felt that influencer marketing is damaging with 66% of people agreeing that their perception of a brand improved when they were transparent about product placement. This should be wake up call to brands to make sure that they are acting within the rules when working with influencers. The public do not want to be duped and brands could suffer as a result.
“It is clear that this is an area of promotion that is growing rapidly, and the regulations need to be enforced more rigorously to keep pace with its growth. Now is the time to take action. I know the ASA has committed to comprehensive education and enforcement this year, and our research shows that this would be welcomed by consumers.”