Social media has become a hub of influencers and educators. The purpose of connecting with a wider audience has provided an opportunity for a common man with the skill to become an influencer and grow their community/follower base and brands to promote their products and drive high sales numbers through them. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc have become gold mines for businesses for building an online presence; advertising their products and services, and creating brand awareness. Brands have a specific budget dedicated to influencer marketing, which has rapidly grown to be a critical tool in a brand’s marketing campaign.
As per the Influencer Marketing Report, the Indian influencer industry is predicted to be valued at Rs 2,200 crore by 2025 and grow at a 25% CAGR. A large amount of consumer is exposed to influencer marketing through social media which also includes celebrities. Therefore, there’s a huge possibility of consumer rights violations by brands across distinctive sectors as influencer marketing is a rapidly growing industry and more brands resort to social media influencers for paid advertising and reviews. Sometimes this can be misleading and deceptive as consumers blindly follow their favorite influencers.
In order to prevent such malpractices and fraudulent advertisements, the department of consumer affairs will soon set certain guidelines for social media influencers, which will make the disclosure of any paid promotions or reviews by the influencers and artists on social media mandatory. The main purpose of issuing the guidelines would be to protect the interests of consumers and help the consumers to make better and more informed purchase decisions. Most of the leading companies in the world already have such a framework for influencer marketing, however, India is still a largely unorganized and unconsolidated market with no strict guidelines as such when it comes to social media/influencer marketing. It seems to be a good move by the government but concurrently how do we define the thin line so that influencers are not becoming the target of misleading practices should be under consideration as well and brands should be held equally responsible to an extent for pushing deceptive content on social media.
Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, etc, have already made it mandatory or created tools that disclose the brand association with influencers whether it’s a sponsored ad or not. Influencer marketing has spread across diverse sectors whether it is consumer goods, travel, healthcare, or financial services, so the introduction of guidelines will only bring more awareness among the consumers across sectors; create brand transparency and lead to responsible conduct in the digital marketing ecosystem.
Furthermore, we will also have to see how these guidelines would boil down to the small-scale influencer’s level as most of the influencers are either nano, micro, or mid-tier influencers because of the relatability and trust they’ve built among their audience, unlike most celebs. For example, most of the food bloggers work with a bunch of restaurants and work at a higher volume and not a high ticket size so how these rules impact them would be interesting to find out.
These guidelines might put the small-scale influencers in an unnecessary litigation burden and may hamper the growth of the digital advertising industry initially but might have a long-term benefit in terms of being aware of its social responsibilities and streamlining the market and providing direction. It will help the influencer community to focus on creating impactful content and a healthy digital world. In addition to this, such checks and balances will help influencers in doing proper due diligence about the products or services of the brand they associate with so that there’s a higher conversion touch point, customer retention, and brand loyalty in the long run. Being honest with the consumers will elevate the trust built between stakeholders in the digital advertising ecosystem. But, we should keep in mind that as we progress in creating new jobs and entering new economies of work, we should be aware that our regulations should not be to an extent where this market starts to slow down. So, hopefully, when the proposed guidelines come into force, it will be a positive move that is in the favor of consumers as well as the social media influencers in terms of promotions so that are authentic of products and services and prevent influencers and brands from making unethical attempts.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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