Who do we (and our customers) look to when making decisions about products and services? Well, the strongest influences are these:
· 88% of buyers consider online reviews “very influential” when making a purchase decision.
· 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Only 33% trust ads.
That’s why many good marketing strategies steer us to what are called ‘social influencers’ – people who others trust to recommend products and services. Celebrities, well-known bloggers, people with recognised expertise – they can help bring in clients and sell products.
Using social media influencers comes with some requirements for truth and transparency, and it’s good to be aware of these.
Consumer law requires advertisers to prevent misleading communication, deceptive conduct and misrepresentation, including in testimonials.
Certainly testimonials need to be true. If a writer says he’s visited your facility and found it a terrific place, that visit needs to have happened. But what about when you provide some reward or benefit to those who speak in favour of your work or brand? When do these rewards need to be disclosed?
So far, there is no definitive answer to that (it’s likely to come later via court cases), but there are a few guidelines. One is to look at what impression is created by the posts from an influencer. Is it fairly obvious that this would be a reward-based post? This person might be known to be your brand ‘ambassador’, for example. Or so famous you can’t imagine he wouldn’t expect reward for his services – like Usain Bolt.
But if the posts give the impression of an independent, unscripted, genuine recommendation of your brand – and yet, you’ve paid or rewarded the speaker, this could be a bit murky and could be perceived as misleading or deceptive. One of the ways around this is to include some tags that fairly subtly identify paid advertising – like #spon, #ad, or #ambassador.
Despite these new rules and the challenges of making sure your social media and ad work stay within the law, the positive impact of using thought leaders and social influencers is so strong (88% and 90% are big numbers…) that it’s worth doing, and worth doing right.
(If you want to know more, a good resource explaining this topic comes from lawyer Stephen von Muenster)