Beauty, Fashion, Travel, Fitness, Wellness and Lifestyle Blog | Emtalks

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Social Media Influencers And Paid Ads - Disclosure, Sponsored Content

Shoes online here / dress online here / coat online here / photos by Marta Ferenc / sunglasses / affiliate 

Today I want to talk about a topic that’s been on my mind for quite some time: the ‘not an ad’ discussion. I wrote a blog post years ago about influencers and sponsored content  so I guess this could be a little update on that post. For most of us, blogging started out as a hobby and we had no idea there was any type of reward let alone any financial reward from doing so. In fact when I wrote the post I refer to above, traditional jobs were still the norm and social media related jobs were only just becoming a thing. Now, people are running businesses from their homes, talking about things they are passionate about and making a living from it and I think that should be celebrated. Working hard to create content that people like and get some use out of and then being paid for it, seems to be a quite controversial matter for some reason but it is actually just a job like any other job that people get paid to do and I hope this honest chat will explain a bit more about the world of influencers, paid ADS, posts and more. Let’s discuss…

Disclosure with social media influencers: To begin with, let’s talk about disclosure: Where content is marked with AD, #ad, Ad, advertorial it means it’s an advertisement that is being paid for. There was a little bit of confusion when the new CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) guidelines launched, because people started writing AD on literally everything, to protect themselves and you know what? I get it. It’s better to go overboard than look as if you are trying to mislead or hide anything from anyone. It’s sometimes hard to keep pace with the ever changing rules in the industry so often it may just be a misunderstanding. I read the guidelines and they suggest AD (whether written as AD, ad, Ad or #ad) is the best way to disclose paid for content as a means of being completely transparent with your audience. On the other hand, if an item is given to me for free as a press sample or I’m on a trip that has been paid for on my behalf, it would say, hosted press trip or gifted press item. I wrote a blog post all about the connotations of the word gifted so for more on that click here to read my blog post on gifted influencer items because that's a sticky one in itself!

To make disclosure for both bloggers/influencers and consumers simple, the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) rule that Ad, #ad, AD (which all mean the same thing) is the best way to mark paid for content. I asked ASA if the # is needed and I received a response to say that the declaration of paid work doesn’t have to be searchable, and as a hashtag makes something searchable using AD alone is sufficient, without the hashtag too. The hashtag can be used if desired but it isn’t a formal requirement. Now we’re clear on that, let’s talk about ADs in the influencer world. Note: I do not like the word ‘influencer’ as it suggests our primary goal is to ‘influence’ but it seems to be used universally now so that’s what I’ll be using throughout this article.

Turning work down: I speak for myself and my friends in the industry when I say I turn down a lot of work that doesn’t align with my values or my followers. For those people who do chose to be paid for talking about something they don’t really like, use or believe in, that’s up to them and it is none of my business but what I can guarantee is that both me and the majority of people I work with in this industry, agree to working and being paid for about things that they would either use, do use or would like to use and things that align with their goals and values so whether they are being paid for it or not is irrelevant. I get a little tired of seeing influencers being branded as ‘greedy’ for making a living: there will always be some bad eggs in every industry but it certainly isn’t the norm. Most influencers are self-employed, meaning we don’t know from one month to the next what money, if any, is going to come in. That’s why I think as ‘influencers’ we should be open about the money and campaigns we turn down to demonstrate that, even set against a background of not knowing whether a paid job is going to come in that month or not, we are true to our values and stick to advertising only about things we are passionate about. We can be wrongly branded as 'greedy' or 'sell outs' but would many people turn down a promotion at work, particularly if they didn't know where their next pay cheque was coming from? Probably not! But many of us do that on a weekly basis.

Unpaid work: While paid content is becoming common place, it’s also worth saying that much of an ‘influencer’s’ work is often unpaid, organic content which is watched and enjoyed by millions of people. I always think it's a shame when people do get annoyed at influencers doing paid partnerships because after all, they produce so much free content too. A natural progression from that organic type of content is that a brand will see how passionate and enthusiastic you are for their brand and will want to pay you as an ambassador of the brand and that becomes a real honour and a fully fledged partnership with a contract, a full schedule of work and tight deadlines. This natural progression in to a paid partnership along with disclosure is something that we should be proud of particularly as these are brands that we love to champion. Some ’influencers’ are frightened of the backlash from people who don’t quite understand the industry and how it works or get confused by the few ‘bad eggs’ in the industry but for most of us we have built an organic relationship with a brand which has resulted in a more contractual relationship and that’s something to be proud of. I've genuinely been called a 'greedy cow' for using affiliate links before, but if someone is paying for items out of their own money, then producing a video about those items, paying a videographer to edit it and maybe might make a few pounds if someone buys through their link *how dare they*, is that really such a bad thing? Shouldn't we be saying, actually yes, that person inspired my purchase or helped me get an outfit for a certain occasion, just like a sales assistant works on commission, why does that make an influencer greedy?
Shoes online here / dress online here / coat online here / photos by Marta Ferenc sunglasses / affiliate 

Expenses: As well as talking about the jobs we turn down, I often think as content creators it’s also worth talking about just how much money goes into this job and how much it costs to produce good quality content. I’ve always being of the mindset that you should blog as a passion and you can do that for free, but as things expand and clients want drone shots and audiences want high quality content investment is required. Ultimately we are producers, editors, photographers you name it and we need the equipment to go out and make that content, whether free or sponsored. I know the majority of influencers who do this full time spend thousands of pounds on camera equipment, the fact I had to move to London because everything seems to be here, extortionate rent rates, the videographer, photographers I pay etc, and if I didn’t earn money from the work I do I simply wouldn’t be able to create content on a full time basis.

ADs in the Social Media World:
I’m very lucky because I have an audience that mostly understand that whether it’s an AD or not, it’s still ’selling’ nothing other than my passion for something. Just because something is an AD, it doesn’t for a second mean that it isn’t me or isn’t my genuine opinion. Just because I’m being paid it doesn’t mean I don’t like it. There’s this idea in the world that if someone is paid, it means what they’re saying is untrue but actually, most of my partnerships come from organic love of a brand first and they then want to work with me which is wonderful. I guess some people on social media, do post about things they don’t genuinely use or like and that ruins it for us all, so be mindful of who you’re following and usually it’s pretty easy to tell when someones being genuine. Even when a new brand comes to me, please know that I invest a lot of time in trialling things (and my Mum too) before any content goes out. I actually relish in the opportunity to help new brands I’ve never worked with before, I love using them, falling in love and shouting about them from the rooftops. I also respect brands that do pay influencers for their work too. I often see people apologising 'sorry for doing too many ADs in a row' but so what? if they're all genuine, it doesn't matter. To be honest, when I see influencers doing paid jobs I'm like YES QUEEN, epic! How awesome?! It's really cool.

Industry Improvements: For me, it’s important that my disclosure is spot on as I would never want to deceive anyone, in my eyes, the guidelines are ideal to set a standard for everyone to follow and standards are important. They could be improved by being properly monitored by the ASA with feedback being provided to those who misinterpret them or use them incorrectly (because currently they are not monitored so it can be one rule for one influencer and another rule for another). I'm not at all saying I'm perfect in this blog post, but I'm trying my best with the ever changing rules. Transparency is key, but one thing I’m not a particular fan of is when people label their content with the phrase ‘not an AD’ I try to avoid doing this because whatever content I am producing is genuine whether it is an AD or not and I think that saying this discredits ADs and makes it appear that there is a difference and there shouldn’t be any difference at all. For me personally, AD or no AD, it’s still a genuine opinion and having to write ‘this isn’t an AD’ on everything should be unnecessary. I also understand why people write it, it's easier to say 'this isn't an AD' than someone waste the ASA's time investigating something but also, it shows how untrusting people have become that people are having to write 'not an AD' just because they're saying something good about something!

Phew, so there we have it, not to be a negative Nelly with this post, but just to get it out there and talk openly and honestly about sponsored content with influencers from my point of view, whether you’re someone who absolutely hates people doing ADS, you’re all for it or you don’t care either way I do hope this goes someway to clarifying things.

If you support me or my peers, thank you so much. It means everything! I think it's pretty awesome what we've achieved as 'influencers', it's always very pinch me getting to work with brands!

You might also like:

Understanding PR samples and what does GIFTED mean
How I Edit My Instagram Photos 
12 social media influencer tips
How to increase my blog traffic 
How to be an Instagrammer/blogger/start a blog

Is Social Media Dangerous? 
Blogging As A Full Time Job 


Lots of love, Em x

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