In the current docuseries, Mirror Mirror, Todd Sampson reveals a heavy social media users’ brain is remarkably similar to a drug abusers. Social media is addictive in both a physical and psychological way, as it interacts with neural regions linked to reward processing, imitation and attention.

Likes, comments, and shares provide a dopamine hit that keeps our eyes on the screen and our fingers scrolling.

Beautifully curated images and video content also prompt comparisons between our own lives and the influencers we follow. The increasing use of filters, non-disclosed promotions and digital enhancement means it can be hard to tell the difference between content that is inspirational, aspirational or just plain fiction. 

With instances of depression, body dysmorphia and youth suicide on the rise, governments and regulatory bodies across the world are finally taking action.  

For example, in July 2021 Norway made an amendment to its Marketing Act that influencers must state when posts are paid, and when images have been altered. Specifically, they must disclose the digital alteration of their body shape, skin and size and the use of filters.

Although these regulations are not currently in play in Australia, it might not be long before similar measures are considered.

At IMPACT, we’ve always believed in honest, positive, authentic and transparent relationships with influencers and their followers. We do this because it results in better results for our clients and the influencers we partner with.

For brands wanting to contribute to a better culture of content creation and avoid fines, IMPACT recommends the following:

Be in the know, and follow the rules

For years, social media platforms have existed as a lawless online frontier, guided only by their own rules. 

The AiMCO Code of Practice was established in 2020 to drive trust, accountability and transparency between brands, influencers and consumers. Subsequent updates to the code were introduced in February and August this year.

So, what’s new?

The major change for brands and influencers is that paid AND gifted collaborations must be acknowledged.

‘Gifted’ includes contracted, value-in-kind, and affiliate relationships. According to AiMCO, when “brands seek out known influencers and provide them with free products or services with a view to obtain promotion for the products or services” this is advertising.

As a general rule, AiMCO strongly encourages the use of brand partnership tools within a social media platform e.g., the Paid Partnership tool on Instagram should be used where possible. These tools ensure the disclosure is clear and unambiguous. If these are used, then other disclosures may not be required. 

AiMCO’s other preferred disclosures are the following hashtags:

o   #Ad;

o   #Advert; or

o   #Advertising; or

o   #PaidPartnership; or 

o   #PaidPromotion; or

o   #Sponsored

Note: In some instances ‘Ad’ ‘Advert’ or ‘Advertising’ may be used without the hashtag provided it can be easily viewed.

Posts may also include additional hashtags such as:

  • Client requested hashtag such as #brandname, #campaign etc;
  • #Ambassador; 
  • #BrandedContent; 
  • #PaidPartner; 
  • #FreeGift; 
  • #BrandPartner

For brands and influencers who aren’t prepared to follow the rules, financial and reputational costs apply. Look at Magnum, Samsung and Tropeaka; all three have recently breached the AiMCO Code of Practice by working with influencers who failed to provide sufficient tags and labels.

Now that you know, what do you need to do?

Organisations must evaluate their role within the industry and consider how they can make a difference. By understanding and implementing AiMCO’s Code of Practice, brands will help social media become a more open and transparent space. 

Is it time to review your influencer contracts, or content approval processes? 

If you need help, get in touch with IMPACT. As one of the first PR agencies in Sydney to establish a Code of Conduct for working with influencers, IMPACT has always been at the forefront of social media best practice and trends.