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In the wake of confusion about ad content, the Advertising Standards Authority has released new official guidelines for social media influencers.
The ASA released the document titled "Influencers: Making it clear that ads are ads" today in a bid to encourage more transparency from influencers posting sponsored content.
The new guidelines define an "influencer" as anyone "who has influence over the choice, opinion or behaviour of their following", regardless of the number of followers they have.
"An influencer is someone who has access to an audience (regardless of size) for their own organic content and ad content they generate income from."
Any products or services being advertised must be clearly labelled that way.
"Consumers should know it is advertising at their first interaction with the ad content."
Previous hashtags such as #sp (sponsored) or #collab (Collaboration) are no longer acceptable, as the meaning isn't instantly obvious. And other hashtags, such as #gift, #gifted or #ambassador must follow a clear statement that the post is an ad.
And even gifted items count as advertising.
"'Payment' can be any benefit the influencer may receive in exchange for the content they distribute including but not limited to: money, free product or service, credit, event tickets, travel, product loans."
The guidelines also demand that every segment of a social media story that includes ad content needs to be clearly identified as advertising.
All parties to an ad, including the influencer and advertiser, are equally responsible for making it clear that the content is advertising.
The Herald recently reported that the ASA upheld four complaints against influencer Simone Anderson for failing to clearly label advertising content on her Instagram page, in the first decision of its kind against a social media influencer.
Complainants claimed her posts were misleading as they didn't make it clear that there was a commercial relationship between her and the companies she was promoting.
The new requirements will apply to all ad content posted from September 14 this year.