The Influencer Council came back together for its second session on the 25th March to delve into more detail about British understanding of advertising hashtags, the need for education, and how to ensure that all influencers are transparent and followers are clear on what is and is not an advert. Chaired by Christian Howes, the panel discussed a wide variety of potential solutions to drive clarity around influencer advertising across platforms.
Let’s walk through our top findings.
1. Major confusion remains but responsibility increases.
The Council kicked off by discussing research, commissioned by Klarna in February 2021, which found that, alarmingly, 46% of Brits did not know that #ad meant an influencer has been paid by a company to promote a product or service. The council were unanimously shocked by this data and it’s clear that there are fundamental issues across all platforms that are leading to Brits being confused on existing advertising tags.
The research also showed that 30% of Brits who have seen an influencer or celebrity give financial advice have taken it, which shows that increasingly, people are turning to social media to seek advice in a more digestible way. However, this also reveals the greater responsibility that influencers have in ensuring that this advice is communicated clearly and correctly signposted as an advert when necessary.
2. Education is key.
After discussing the research, it was apparent that education is absolutely fundamental. Yet, who is responsible for educating followers? The panel agreed that influencers do need to step up and take responsibility to ensure that their followers are protected. A panel member suggested that influencers could hold a glossary of terms on their Instagram highlights, so followers can re-educate themselves at any time if they are confused, or unclear about various hashtags.
As part of the Influencer Council, the panelists are seeking to create a new glossary of terms to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. This list of approved vocabulary (or perhaps imagery) will support clearer and deeper understanding of advertising posts.
3. Existing tags are unclear and inconsistent
Social channels are inherently limited by time and space and consumers can only be expected to absorb information if it’s conveyed clearly. The Council broke down all the different tags that are currently in use such as #ad, #gifted, #affiliate and #ambassador, and discussed where the confusion lies. Many of the panelists agreed that #ambassador is vague and unclear, as it has a variety of meanings. The Council agreed that by removing this tag from the book of hashtags, other tags such as #ad and #gifted will be far more effective.
What is also needs to be addressed is that fact that some influencers are using #Sp or #Spon in lieu of #sponsored and others to disguise the tag and purposely hide the fact they are advertising. The panel were unanimous in their view that it is easy to identify when an influencer is intentionally attempting to hide the fact that a post is sponsored and that it is this intentional deceit which needs to be addressed. Again, this took the conversation back to the importance of influencers assuming responsibility for their posts.
4. Tackling T&Cs
Let’s all admit it, T&Cs are long and many don’t take the time to read through every page. So how do you inform the audience of the terms of a paid partnership whilst also keeping them engaged? As more people are starting to turn to influencers for financial advice, as our data showed, it’s vital that audiences are totally clued up.
The panel discussed a range of different options to tackle how to make posts much clearer, more engaging whilst also keeping in mind the maze of different platforms to consider.
Many platforms have the option of being able to overlay stickers on top of a video, but also to include a static image to a grid post. The Council discussed the option of having a treasure chest of stickers and watermarks made available to all influencers created by the brand to add to a post, or to a carousel grid post. By having agreed stickers and watermarks, there is no option for influencers to disguise an advert tag, and a consistent story can be told across different platforms.
By having the brand create the stickers, and influencers forming a glossary of agreed terms, this should reduce confusion and increase clarity across social media platforms.
So, what’s next?
After an energetic discussion, session two concluded with what needs to be done ahead of the next session that will be held on 8th April.
The council will begin to formulate a new glossary of terms and appropriate language for influencers and brands to use to remove any opportunity of confusion and opaqueness. From there, the biggest step will be to begin creating the tool kit to illustrate how it could be used and executed across brands and platforms.