Guest column: Why the new influencer marketing guidelines will be for the better

The line between advertising content and paid ones is blurring on social media platforms.

NEW DELHI: India’s advertising self-regulatory council, the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI), will soon announce new guidelines for the influencer industry. Today, influencer marketing is not merely restricted to reaching out to bloggers/influencers but it has acquired a prominent share in brands’ marketing strategies. There’s no second thought in saying that the market has evolved and influencers have become a mainstream medium in the advertising world.

India’s influencer market is estimated at $75-$150 million a year as compared to the global market of $1.75 billion. This is an industry that has become mainstream in the recent past and is only expected to grow as more Indians go online. Be it a small or bigger brand or even a start-up, everyone intends to get fame in the shortest time, and as a result, they opt for the influencer marketing route to connect with the audience. But then there’s the other side of the story also where digital platforms have been misleading people and frauds have been occurring incessantly. 

With the new guidelines hitting the influencer industry soon, there will be a gradual change in the whole ecosystem – from brands to consumers and influencers – which will comprehensively impact the digital industry. 

Transparency in campaigns

ASCI describes an influencer as having access to an audience and the power to affect their audience's purchasing decisions or opinions about a product, service, brand or experience. As per the latest guidelines, influencers post have to include a permitted form of disclosure, be it an ad, collaboration, promotion, sponsored or partnership.  

This will ease the consumer understanding regarding the post and people will be mindful of the content they are consuming. Numerous times we don’t know whether it is a paid content or organically generated. In fact, the line between advertising content and paid ones is blurring on social media platforms. The new rules will create more and more transparency, and brands, as well as influencers, will be more careful of the kind of content that they are bringing to their target audience.

Fake accounts will be minimised

Given the menace of fake news on social media where a fact check of claims is absent, new guidelines will also protect consumers’ interest. In the digital industry, there has been a rampant issue of fake news, ASCI have many times vocally expressed displeasure but till now it's of no use.

Influencers many times buy fake followers to increase their reach and gain popularity. There have been instances where XYZ influencers have a massive number of followers, but the engagement on posts is poor. Brands generally look at the number of followers for the association, but if the results are not up to the mark then it’s not a great strategy. 

Defiance of guidelines

ASCI is not a statutory government body therefore some organisation may prefer not to abide by the new policies. But, most organisations follow ASCI guidelines and we can expect the same in the case of influencer marketing. ASCI can issue a notice to both brand owner and influencer for violation of any guideline in the case of a consumer complaint.

The new guidelines will promote transparency, as well as uplift the level of confidence among consumers, influencers and brands. Influencers should take this as an opportunity to maintain the trust among the followers.

Better opportunities for brands to create responsible advertising

Over the years, Indian advertising fraternity has evolved. Brands are becoming more conscious of their messaging so they don’t get pulled up by ASCI, but the problem still exists. With brands reaching out to influencers rapidly, this will lead both influencers and brands to include all the contracts as mentioned by ASCI. Hence, the results will be positive and it will minimise misleading consumers, and focus on the right content with right messaging which will increase transparency to make the ecosystem better.

(The author is COO and strategy head, Grapes Digital. The views expressed here are her own and may not subscribe to them.)

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