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Social Media Influencers

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - September 2018

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Our Lawyers Online agency is dedicated to bringing you relevant legal information on the regular. Such is the case in today’s topic.

With modern times comes modern ways in which to be famous…Yes, today we talk about influencers and how often they are not actually living up to the legal expectation of “organically” punting items.

Let’s, first of all, clear up what it means to be an influencer. An influencer can be a celebrity or anyone with a large online following. They are also known as YouTube or online celebrities. These individuals get endorsement deals in which they market certain items and brands in a natural way that goes unnoticed. The video content or social media posts might appear natural, as if it is just another informational video or social post from your favourite celebrity when in actual fact they might be selling something to you unknowingly.

Imagine Kim Kardashian posting a pic on Instagram holding pink lip-gloss with a caption that says, “One of my favourites”. By all appearances she is letting you into her life by letting you know what lip-gloss she likes when actually she is marketing the brand of lip-gloss. Not cool, right?
(This information is fiction for example purposes.)

Such is the case with most influencers and it is worth knowing that there are actually a few laws around this.

Legally, there must be transparency when a product or item is being marketed. Not doing so can lead to damage to the influencer’s authenticity, integrity and may even result in hefty fines. So, for the protection of themselves, the brands they endorse as well as their following/consumers, the Federal Trade Commissioner have put some rules in place in South Africa.

All sponsored content needs to be clearly labelled and while it is understood that for the integrity of the content it cannot always be openly said, the following is acceptable best-practice guidelines.

Hash-tags:

The following hash-tags have been approved on all platforms.

  • #sponsored.
  • #ad/#advertising.
  • #affiliate.
  • #promotion/#promo.

The FTC denotes that all hash-tags must be clearly identifiable as sponsored content.

Links and handles:

Brand web links need to be fully visible without being shortened and must have the brand name in any accompanying descriptions.

Brand @handles must be included.

Videos and YouTube:

  • The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa states that all sponsored content must be so disclosed to viewers in both text and at the start of each video.
  • When videos are uploaded, influencers are obligated to notify YouTube of sponsorship elements under a content declaration.
  • Advertising must be disabled if influencers feel that this may clash with their endorsement deals.
  • The FTC states that a hyperlink is not enough, nor is a brief mention of a brand.
  • Live streams must have endorsement information clearly displayed throughout.

Not following the above guidelines can result in as much as permanent bans on social media. The above is a big responsibility and should be taken seriously. We understand the difficulty behind achieving success as an influencer; it would be devastating if damage is incurred due to a disregard for best-practice laws as set out by the Federal Trade Commissioner.

If you are an influencer, and you’re not sure about the rules and regulations, please consult us for further information.

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072 847 6416 | info@lawyers-online.co.za

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