Social media marketing includes activities like posting text and image updates, videos, and other content that drives audience engagement, as well as paid social media advertising.
Popular bloggers, vloggers, celebrities and social media personalities (also referred to as ‘influencers’) can have a lot of influence over people’s buying decisions if they promote a product or service in their posts through any of the above mentioned avenues.
There are two sides to this coin, the influencer and their audience. Each of their interests should be safeguarded and yet still maintain a symbiotic relationship
Achieving this balance will require a close look at the difficulty experienced by the influencer in the course of business and the outright deception experienced by their audience.
IS THERE NEED TO REGULATE SOCIAL MEDIA (INFLUENCER) MARKETING?
Influencer marketing has remained largely unregulated and overlooked. This article offers a brief analysis of this phenomenon and delves into the regulatory challenges resulting from the activity of social media influencers. It fills an important gap by providing an interdisciplinary analysis of a phenomenon with growing societal relevance.
The industry has grown rapidly in recent years as more and more brands have waded into the market causing a demand for influencers to go up. With so much money flooding into a largely unregulated, still-developing market, all sorts of ethical lapses are bound to ensue.
GAPS IDENTIFIED THAT NECESSITATE THE NEED FOR REGULATION
1. Undefined Venture.
Social media marketing is still quite new. It's still not accepted as real work and real business and because of this, there is also a lack of attention in this area. There's a lack of responsibility both for the bloggers but also for all the followers. Therefore, time has come for a proper definition to be drafted and gazzetted to the general public for their acknowledgement of the same. Influencing should urgently be defined as a real job.
2. Editorial Responsibility
It should be that when you reach a certain number of people who are followers of your page then you will have the same responsibility as if you were an editorial person on a newspaper or an old media.
Influencers should realize that their personal comments should not create a conflict of interest with their influencing “profession”.
A good example is when for example, an influencer in their day to day life experiences something unpleasant with a particular brand. This influencer should refrain from making any negative public comments for the simple reason that this comment can greatly tarnish that brand’s image and business.
A straight- jacket formula needs to be developed to separate the personal life of an influencer and the “profession.”
3. Lack of Legislation
There is no law that governs or seems to adequately regulate social media marketing (influencer marketing) in Kenya except the proposed Kenyan Information & Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which has not yet been passed into law.
Various aspects of Consumer Protection have been covered in various legislation including the Trade Descriptions Act, Standards Act, Weights and Measures Act, Consumer Protection Act, the Foods, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act, the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, the Public Health Act and the Fertilizers and Animal Foodstuffs Act.
These and other statutes touching on consumers has left out the right to full pre- contractual information (which in turn imposes an obligation for full disclosure on the part of the Influencer) for the consumer to make an informed choice and regulate the false/ misleading representation.
Various discussions have begun all over the world on the need for regulating this largely self- regulatory industry.
Every market has its own regulation, but one thing is certain: western markets have reacted and established advertising standards for digital marketers and Influencers that regulate the fast paced sector.
Similarly, there is need for the Government of Kenya and Africa at large to develop regulatory guidelines to ensure a transparent disclosure of ads by social media Influencers. These guidelines should capture some of the gaps identified, including but not limited to the fact: that consumers should be able to identify when a post by a social influencer is an ad when it is not, provisions that bestow upon influencers, depending on the number of views and followers, an editorial responsibility.
Lastly, these guidelines/standards should define social media/ influencer marketing for lack of ambiguity and also provide penalties for breach and remedies for any cause of action arising out of the guidelines.
This article supports the move to a less self- regulatory approach to supervision of the said industry.