Influencing the right way: how influencers should promote products on social media

Brands and businesses have transformed the way they advertise products through influencer marketing. 

In this blog, we’ll outline what businesses and influencers should do to ensure compliance with advertising rules and regulations, and what consumers should look out for when purchasing products sponsored by influencers.


What is an influencer and what’s influencer marketing?

Influencers are individuals with a large and dedicated social media following. They can span different social networks, from LinkedIn to Instagram and usually post about specific niches. For example, holidays, food, clothes, etc. 

Influencer marketing refers to a type of marketing whereby brands and businesses use influencers for their endorsement and to advertise their products or services. 

Businesses and brands use influencer marketing for their follower affinity and to target customers another way.


I’m a brand or a business that uses or is thinking to use influencers. What should I be doing?

If you are collaborating with an influencer to promote a product or service, you should be aware of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing, also known as the CAP code.

The CAP code sets out rules relating to legality and social responsibility and is applied by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). 

Some key points from the CAP code to bear in mind are:

  • marketing communications should have a sense of responsibility to consumers and society
  • marketing communications must not be misleading 
  • marketing communications should not contain content that is likely to cause widespread offence eg care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, sexual orientation, age and disability 

Note that both brands and influencers are responsible for ensuring advertisements aren’t misleading and are compliant with the CAP code.


As a brand or a business, how can I stay compliant and protect myself?

  1. Use an Affiliate agreement when working with influencers. This protects your business by setting out the terms and conditions of your arrangement with the influencer. This will include the product or service to be advertised and terms of payment.
  2. Consider making an exclusivity agreement – it may be in your best interest to ensure the influencer is not simultaneously promoting the products of your competitors. An exclusivity agreement will stop the influencer from collaborating with competitors and promoting similar products for them.
  3. Create a confidentiality agreement – if there’s an exchange of sensitive information that you want to protect you might consider creating a non- disclosure agreement


What should I be doing as an influencer?

If you are paid, incentivised, or rewarded by a brand or business to promote their products, you have a legal responsibility under the CAP code to make this clear. This is to avoid potentially misleading followers and individuals.

If your posts aren’t clear enough, you could find yourself breaking consumer protection laws and face action from the CMA and/or the ASA.

It’s important that you do not give the impression that:

  • you have used a protect if you have not
  • you have bought a protect when it is in fact a gift; or
  • you are a consumer when you actually have been working with/have a commercial relationship with the brand/business

A good way to stay compliant as an influencer is being transparent when posting. You can do this is by tagging the brand and adding #AD to your posts, clearly stating your relationship with the brand in question. 

Note that CMA guidelines state that simply adding #AD to a post is not enough, especially when the hashtag is not prominent (e.g. has been added to the end of a caption or is included amongst numerous hashtags, making it difficult to see).

You therefore may wish to use tags that the social media platform you operate on offers. For example, various social media platforms allow for tags such as “paid promotion” to be used. As an influencer, you may wish to explore the use of these to ensure you’re compliant with UK consumer and marketing laws/regulations. 


What should I look out for as a consumer?

Scrolling through Instagram and seeing celebrities and influencers posing with various products such as protein shakes, makeup products, clothes or even holidays can give the impression that they live by these products and so should you. However, it’s important to note that sometimes, influencers have been paid by the brands they’re using or have been given the product for free.

Influencers should not mislead you into thinking they have bought a product or use it when they have not. Look out for disclosure that they are working in collaboration with brands and are being paid or incentivised to advertise their products. 

Find out more about Marketing and the law

Sara Domi