There is no doubt that celebrities or socialites with a huge social media following are a great way to reach consumers. Advertising on social media platforms through influencers can see a much greater return for brand owners than traditional forms of advertising such as print and television. But do consumers have a right to know whether the personality behind their content is being paid to create it?

Australian advertising guidelines have recently been updated to require that advertising or paid content be “clearly distinguishable” from what is private, unpaid content. Some Australians in the social media marketing industry have welcomed the transparency that the new guidelines will bring. Others are not fazed by the changes as, in their view, most influencers have already been disclosing when they are being paid to post about brands or it is clear from the ad anyway. Australia are not the first to require advertisements to be disclosed as such. The Kardashians have themselves been warned by American authorities for not disclosing on some Instagram posts that they were ads. Their Instagram posts have since begun with the hashtag “#ad”. According to 1 News Now, the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority are also looking at whether the same changes are called for in New Zealand.

How the new Australian new guidelines will be enforced remains to be seen. Monitoring all social media users to identify content that may have been commissioned and not disclosed would be impractical. Perhaps only the top-tier influencers will be targeted leaving micro-influencers to fly under the radar. Some brands see the greatest return through multiple micro-influencers having a wider reach. 

Beyond that, it is unclear what steps influencers will need to take to ensure that paid content can be identified as such. The Australian guidelines are clear that expressly labelling the content as “sponsored” is not required as long as it is otherwise clear to the audience that the content is an advertisement. Time will tell how obvious an influencer needs to be.