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As the center prepares a list of dos and don’ts for social media influencers, a thriving community of individuals and companies is pondering the challenges of a more regulated future — and it’s not all bad.
So whether it’s podcast host Vedant Kaushik or marketing agency Pulp Strategy — two ends of the spectrum of influencers trying to push trends with their endorsement of products from makeup to movies — both welcome the move to streamline the sector.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) estimates the industry impacting social media at USD 150 million (approximately Rs 1,200 crore).
The proposed guidelines will eradicate in one fell swoop the vagueness of whether certain content is sponsored or not… We have laws and norms for television, films, radio etc. why not for the modern social media medium Kaushik, who has close to 60,000 followers on Instagram, said PTI.
Some adjustment time can cause chaos. In the long run, this will lead to more responsible behavior in the digital marketing ecosystem, added Ambika Sharma, founder and managing editor of Pulp Strategy.
The consumer affairs ministry is expected to issue guidelines to the community in the next few days, sources said. Influencers with large followings on social media platforms such as Instagram endorse products after accepting payment from brands, he explained.
But they will soon have to include a disclaimer in their posts when they promote a brand or are paid by a brand to promote, the sources said. Violation of these guidelines can result in heavy penalties.
Any person with a significant following on a social media platform can be an influencer. A product or brand endorsed, used or controlled by an individual who has significant influence or influence over their followers is what constitutes influencer marketing. Influencer marketing agencies like Pulp Strategy connect influencers with companies and create strategies for them.
The fines are said to be in the range of Rs 10 crore to Rs 50 crore, said influencer-turned-entrepreneur Gaurav Jain.
“I think creators will be penalized based on the size of their audience and the kind of brand they’ve worked with. But I still feel like mostly bigger celebrities and macro creators will fall under their radar if they don’t comply,” explained Jain.
According to influencers and marketing agencies, the fear of heavy fines and potential lawsuits can present some challenges at first, especially for smaller creators. But in the long run, the guidelines will help formalize the industry and make brands and creators more accountable to consumers.
Karan Pherwani of influencer marketing agency Chtrbox said the guidelines will cultivate long-term trust between the brand, the influencer and their followers.
There’s no reason why audiences shouldn’t know when digital celebrities are endorsing a brand. In both cases, brand advertising has the same impact when done well. The key is choosing the right celebrity and influencer and a strong connection with the brand. Brand endorsements only further communicate that the creator values the brand enough to work with them, said Pherwani, director of creator solutions, Chtrbox.
Pulp Strategy’s Sharma agreed.
The guidelines can scare off smaller influencers who stand to benefit in the long run.
In her view, the rules are not difficult to comply with or unreasonable.
The growing segment of influencer marketing can cater to a wide range of industries, including fashion, food, cosmetics, design, technology and entertainment.
An influencer can earn anywhere from a few thousand to millions of rupees based on the brand, the creator’s reach and the quality of the content, explained Jain.
Fitness trainer and influencer Meenal Bhardwaj Pathak, who has more than one million followers on Instagram, said the guidelines and punishments will instill a sense of moral and social responsibility in creators.
I think this is the right way to implement these changes. When you know that a product is endorsed by the creator, you can make an informed decision before purchasing it. And providing a fine will only teach creators to be more accountable to their followers, Pathak said.
In my opinion, this is actually a great way to build more trust between the creators and the audience. The influencer marketing space is growing exponentially. While that’s a great thing, it also leaves a lot of room and potential for misinformation and abuse from an unsuspecting audience that spends a lot of time watching online content, Kaushik said.
Last year, ASCI issued Digital Influencer Advertising Guidelines, which mandated social media influencers who advertise brands from their accounts to disclose paid partnerships.
The ASCI guidelines were a good starting point to start the discussion, Kaushik said.
Although there is general optimism that the government’s proposed guidelines will make the industry more efficient, some fear that their influence will weaken.
Jain, who now runs influencer marketing agency Creators Gram, said the fear of losing followers often forces creators to hide their paid association with a brand in a post.
At times, the audience feels cheated when they realize they are watching an ad and not regular content. But if it is clearly stated that it is a paid promotion, then it is up to the viewer to decide if they really want to see the content. They will have more options, Jain said.
Influencers and marketing agencies alike believe that the amount of the fine now being speculated appears to be excessive and on the higher side for the offense committed.
Fashion influencer Isha Borah, who has more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, said penalties should be based on the creator’s earnings, not a pre-defined amount.
I think it might be a bit much for nano and micro influencers who may not be making much money through brand promotion. I think it should be based on their total earnings through paid collaborations rather than a lump sum, Borah said.