As the center prepares a list of do’s and don’ts for social media influencers, a thriving community of individuals and businesses is considering the challenges of a more regulated future — and it’s not wrong.
So whether it’s podcast host Vedant Kaushik or marketing agency Pulp Strategy (both ends of the influencer spectrum work to drive trends by supporting products ranging from cosmetics to movies), both welcome the industry’s decision to rationalize.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has valued the social media influencer industry at $150 million (approximately Rs 12 billion).
The proposed guidelines will take away the guesswork of whether content is sponsored in one fell swoop… We have laws and standards for TV, film, radio, etc. Why not opt for modern social media Kaushik, which has nearly 60,000 followers on Instagram, says PTI.
A little bit of confusion can be seen with some adjustment times. Ambika Sharma, founder and editor-in-chief of Pulp Strategy, added that this will lead to more responsible behavior in the digital marketing ecosystem in the long run.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs is expected to issue guidelines for the community in the coming days, the sources said. They explain that influencers with large followings on social media platforms such as Instagram endorse products after accepting payment from brands.
Soon, however, they will be required to add disclaimers to their posts when they endorse or are paid for by brands for promotions, sources say. Violation of these guidelines can result in severe penalties.
An influencer can be anyone with a large following on a social media platform. Products or brands endorsed, used, or reviewed by individuals who have a significant influence on their followers constitute influencer marketing. Influencer marketing agencies like Pulp Strategy connect influencers with businesses and develop strategies for them.
Influencer-turned-entrepreneur Gaurav Jain said the fines would be between Rs 1 million and Rs 5 million.
“I think creators will be fined based on the size of their audience and the type of brands they work with. But I still think that most of the big celebrities and macro creators will get noticed for noncompliance,” explains Jain.
The fear of hefty fines and possible lawsuits can cause some problems, especially for smaller creators, according to influencers and marketing agencies. In the long run, however, these guidelines will help formalize the industry and make brands and creators more accountable to consumers.
Karan Pherwani of influencer marketing agency Chtrbox says the guidelines will foster long-term trust between brands, influencers and their followers.
There’s no reason the public doesn’t know when a digital celebrity endorses a brand. In both cases, a well-crafted ad can be equally impactful for a brand. Choosing the right celebrities and influencers, with strong brand consistency, is key. Pherwani, director of creator solutions at Chtrbox, said brand endorsement disclosures only show that creators like the brand enough to be associated with it.
Sharma of Pulp Strategy agreed.
Guides can scare off small influencers from the start and benefit in the long run.
In her view, these rules are neither difficult to follow nor unreasonable.
The growing segment of influencer marketing can cater to a wide range of industries including fashion, food, cosmetics, design, technology and entertainment.
Jain explained that influencers can earn anywhere from a few thousand to several hundred thousand rupees, depending on the brand, the creator’s reach and the quality of the content.
Fitness trainer and influencer Meenal Bhardwaj Pathak, who has more than 100,000 Instagram followers, said the guidelines and penalties would instill moral and social responsibility in creators.
I think this is the right way to drive these changes. When you know a product has been approved by the creator, you can decide for yourself before purchasing. Fines will only teach creators to be more accountable to subscribers, Pathak said.
In my opinion, this is actually a great way to build trust between the creator and the audience. The influencer marketing space is growing exponentially. While this is a good thing, Kaushik said, it also leaves a lot of room and potential for misinformation and exploiting uninformed viewers who spend a lot of time watching content online.
Last year, ASCI released its Digital Influencer Advertising Guidelines, requiring social media influencers who advertise brands through their accounts to disclose paid partnerships.
The ASCI guidelines are a good starting point for discussions, Kaushik said.
While there is widespread optimism that the government’s proposed guidelines will streamline the industry, some fear their influence is waning.
Jain, who now runs influencer marketing agency Creators Gram, said fear of losing followers often leads creators to hide their paid associations with brands in posts.
Sometimes viewers feel a little cheated and misled after realizing they are watching an ad instead of regular content. But if it’s explicitly mentioned that it’s a paid promotion, it’s up to the viewer to decide if they actually want to see the content. They will have more options, Jain said.
Influencers and marketing agencies believe that the amount of the penalty currently speculated seems unreasonable and quite high for the crime committed.
Fashion influencer Isha Borah, who has more than 10 million Instagram followers, said the penalties should be based on the designer’s income, not a fixed amount.
I think it might be a bit overkill for nano and micro influencers who might not make a lot of money from brand promotions. “I think it should be based on the total income they get through paid partnerships, not a one-time payment,” Borah said.