An influencer

Above: An influencer at work. Credit: Adobe Stock (206487962).

Influencer Integrity

In the UK, social media users with large followings ("influencers") are being pressurized by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to reveal whenever they are posting a positive testimonial about a product that has been given to them (as a gift) or when they have been paid to post any such testimonial. The CMA insist that it is "misleading" to the influencer's followers if this is not made clear in the post. The CMA argue that if someone has been given products or money, then technically any such post is a form of commercial marketing ("influencer marketing").

The CMA's position tends to presume that if I have been paid by a company then it follows that I actually don't like their products at all--and I am posting positive things about the products in a way which is basically dishonest. (I am just doing it for the money.) However, the reality is that many influencers actually really do like the products that they post positive things about: they are being honest and are posting with integrity. The product companies often come calling because an influencer has already, of their own volition, posted positive notes about a certain product--the basic commercial request to the influencer is: can we have some more of the same type of posts please.

The CMA are in essence charging the influencer with being dishonest or lacking integrity with the implication that all payments and gifts are always, always bribes--a corruption. This position is illogical and unjust.

For example, if I am handed, in the street, a bottle of a new energy drink to try for free, and, later that day, I recommend that specific brand of drink to a friend, by CMA logic, I should also explicitly note to my interlocutor that the comment is commercial marketing.

(26 January 2019)