Sunday, 27 January 2019

New CMA/ASA Guidelines - My Point of View as a Consumer

new CMA ASA posting guidelines

Earlier this week, it was reported in the news whereby 16 social media stars were under investigation by the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) and they all have agreed to change the way they post online. If you missed the news, you can read it here.

Of course, this had resulted in a lot of social media bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers (aka 'influencers') clarifying what the requirements mean for them and whether or not the new guidelines will or will not change the way they post online going forward (depending on their current posting practices).

Today I wanted to share my point-of-view as a consumer.

YES! A consumer.

I know I run this blog and I do maintain social media accounts alongside it. But I see myself as a consumer first, at least at the time of writing this because...

A) I have a career in the Financial Services sector in the City of London. I am a geek at heart when it comes to topics such as finance, governance, risk, and control, but I also happen to have a penchant for beauty, fashion and luxury designer goods.

This blog was born out of my love for these subjects. It is also a conduit for me to channel my creativity as I find writing very therapeutic and I have a strong appreciation for photography (both in front of or behind the lens).

B) My online presence is minute (again, at the time of writing). Everything I write about here is self-purchased - be it products or experiences.

Therefore, I think it is only right that I share my point-of-view as a consumer who consumes content and buys products and services.

Essentially a point of view from someone who sits on the other side of the table.

CMA_ASA guidelines

1. Embrace the guidelines 

I work in an industry that is highly regulated. So I am used to working with rules, regulations, guidelines and best practices.

Some rules are rigid, others are more principle-based.

Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong with having some guidelines in place. They are there to create boundaries, set expectations, promote transparency, and consistency in practices, in the hope to reduce the risk of confusion and to not mislead consumers.

Just imagine going to a football field without having any rules set - it will be chaos.

So the same concept applies here.

Instead of wasting your energy fighting it, embrace the new dawn, follow the guidelines, (apply some judgements) and chances are you will be on the safe side.

Channel your energy to continuing producing amazing content for your followers instead.

2. Stop Thinking It's Complicated

This is probably my biggest pet peeve.

Influencers may have landed themselves a career in a non-conventional industry. But is it really unconventional?

The blogging world may have peaked in the last decade or so, but the media, marketing and advertising industries have been around for ages.

Influencers to me are simply another medium for marketing and advertising. Others include print, TV/radio, billboards, telemarketing, direct mails, just to name a few.

Essentially to me what influencers do, and how they work with brands is not a complicated concept.

Speaking for myself, I know the difference between an AD, a paid for collaboration, a gift or PR samples, an all paid for trips to X, Y & Z to create content or an invitation to an event for a product launch.

I get it and I can work out the difference from one to the other. They are not difficult concepts to grasp.

The one area that I don't find being talked about and I think is more complicated and subject to more grey areas is the extent of these work get declared as income (and subject to being taxed). I know these are a whole new topic altogether so we shall save that for another day!

3. Have Faith in Your Followings 

I never understood the hesitation to be transparent when you've been paid to write or talk about a  product or a brand? Why do some feel the need to hide?

Influencers have successfully made a career out of social media. It is understandable that they have to make a living because let's be honest we can't simply live with air and love!

To me, how an influencer decides to work with a brand (and vice versa) doesn't affect the way I consume their content or engage with them.

I follow them because I like their content, the aesthetic and their creativity, and they offer me something that I value.

All these ultimately lead to one thing - trust in their voices and opinions.

As such, I often see them as an extension of 'Google' because they know the latest product launches, fashion trends, substitute for products that will not break my bank account, or the latest food to try or things to do in London!

At the end of the day, as a consumer, I make my own purchasing decisions. And that ultimately comes down to my needs, desires, budget, lifestyle and of course, product suitability.

No amount of guidelines is going to change that.

So overall, I think the arrival of the CMA guidelines is timely and a move towards the right direction. For almost a decade, the blogging industry has been self-regulating itself which was acceptable when the industry was at its infancy. As the industry continues to grow, and there are more influencers today than there have ever been, there is no harm in having guidelines in place. All in the name of putting some order in place, to promote transparency and for consumers protection.

As for influencers, I truly believe that adding two extra alphabets to your captions (AD) is not going to significantly reduce your followings/engagements. Don't forget that in the first place, you got to where you are today due to your followings. As long as you continue to stay authentic, produce content and feature products that are aligned with our needs, we are here to stay.

We are after all on this journey together and one cannot function without the other. x

What's your take on this?


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