The ARB’s social media code of conduct will aim to add a layer of authenticity and integrity to influencer content on social media. Pretending that content is authentic, when it isn’t, is a huge ‘no-no’ as an influencer.

This new social media code of conduct will ensure that all branded content is marked with ‘#ad’, ‘#advertisement’ or ‘#sponsored’, making it easy for followers to distinguish between branded and organic content.

Code of conduct definitions

Various social media jargon is used throughout the code, and it’s important to know exactly what it means. These are the definitions, according to the code:

Social media
The collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.

These channels typically include platforms such as: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest, etc.

Social media marketing
This is marketing that takes advantage of social networking to help a company or brand to increase brand exposure, broaden customer reach or drive specific user actions.

This can be done in two ways:
  1. Organically, through the creation of content and nurturing of communities
  2. Through paid social media advertising on the social media platforms

Social media advertising
This allows companies and brands to spend money to increase the reach of their content or messaging within the applicable social media platform.

Organic social media
This refers to the efforts or content that does not have any paid advertising spend behind it.

This is an individual or a group who brands pay to engage with social media in a certain way, on a certain topic or in the promotion of a brand or publisher. Often, an influencer has, or is perceived to have, the ability to influence the behaviour or opinions of others, but this is not prescriptive to fulfil the role of a paid influencer.

User-generated content
This is any form of content (such as images, videos, text and audio) that has been posted by users of online platforms (such as social media, blogs and wikis) when the user has not been paid to do so.

Honesty in advertising

The code dictates that all influencers and marketers have to disclose when the content they are posting is part of a social media advertising campaign or has been sponsored by a brand.

Organic posts that have been sponsored by a particular brand need to include a social media identifier — like ‘#ad’, ‘#advertisement’ or ‘#sponsored’ — to ensure that audiences know that this is paid advertising, and not, in fact, organic social media endorsement.

Social media adverts, such as ‘Promoted’ tweets or ‘Sponsored’ posts on Facebook, are already clearly identified as being branded posts. As long as the audience can easily see that these posts are paid-for adverts, the poster does not have to further disclose that they have been paid for by including hashtags.

To further ensure full transparency, publishers and influencers are required to disclose if they have been given or loaned goods or services in return for media coverage. This helps to reinforce publisher and influencer integrity and lets consumers form fair opinions of the content, product or service.

No more misleading consumers

The code is very clear about social media advertising not containing any deceptive, false or misleading claims. All messages shared should be accurate and responsible. Say goodbye to deceptive claims, offers or business practices — by commission or omission.

As for parody accounts on social media, they’ll have to clearly state that they are not an original account in the description or bio. It will have to indicate that the user is not affiliated with the subject of the account by including words such as ‘parody’, ‘fake’, ‘fan’, ‘commentary’, etc.

Where does this leave influencer marketing?

For brands that invest in influencer marketing, there are some strict new rules. Brands that employ the services of social media influencers will have to ensure that:

  • Any claims made by the influencer and their content must comply with the standards of the Code of Advertising Practice (specifically with Clause 10 of Section II). The defense of saying “it was my opinion” will not be tolerated if the influencer has made false claims.
  • All required declarations and marketing regulations for specific industries are fully adhered to.
  • Influencers have a good understanding of the product or service they are advertising. Brands should never mislead influencers to get them to write overly positive recommendations.

Brands are required to have written contracts with all paid influencers, and the contracts must include:

  • The details of the agreement
  • The remuneration, details and conditions of payment
  • The obligation to only publish their own content, or to clearly disclose and credit the content-creator if the content is not original
  • Mandatory disclosures and industry-specific marketing regulations
Say hello to a new era of transparency in influencer marketing campaigns! No more misleading posts, false claims or twisting the truth!

Do you think having a social media code of conduct is a good thing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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*Image courtesy of Vecteezy