These two little letters seem to cause a lot of controversy on social media. Some of us like them, some of us don’t. Some of us see the letters and scroll past, while others don’t even notice that they’re there (as they’re often hidden at the end of a post or among other hashtags).
Influencers must use them when promoting products, have been gifted products or if they have an affiliation with the brand that owns the product.
Reading up on more network marketing (ahem, pyramid schemes) articles, it got me thinking about the products that they promote and yet don’t have to declare as an #ad.
You may think I have some beef with Network Marketing since my last marketing related blog post was Influencer Marketing VS Network Marketing, but really, I haven’t written anything new in a whole month! Life’s been a little busy.
But I want to dive into the world of network marketing a little more. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I’ve seen quite a few things on my Instagram feed recently.
If I followed a company/brand on my socials and they were promoting products on their stories and in their posts all of the time, I wouldn’t think twice about it.
If an influencer was to promote products with links and discount codes where they would receive money themselves, I would expect to see the word ‘Ad’ somewhere in that content as they’re promoting products for someone else to a lot of followers.
Now think of network marketers. They buy products from the ‘Mother Company’ let’s call it, and then sell through their own pages. So really, they’re selling on behalf of someone else, right?
They may say that they ‘work for themselves’ but don’t they have targets to hit? Don’t they have to reach out to people to join their
cult network? Don’t they have a higher person that they answer to?
If they’re not (really) working for themselves, but promoting products on someone else’s behalf, then shouldn’t it be declared as such? What I see when I see a network marketer selling something on their stories is, ‘Hi, I like this product because I bought 60 of them and would really like if you bought it too because sales = money = higher up the pyramid I go.’
WHAT ABOUT SHOP ASSISTANTS?
Another one to consider is the people that work in stores and promote the products they sell. If I follow someone that works in Topshop and likes to model the clothes on their stories that are from that store; if I like what I see, I’ll likely go to Topshop and purchase it.
This shop assistant isn’t getting any money from my sale since they don’t know that I’ve went and bought what they’ve added to their Instagram story.
But what if that shop assistant had 10,000 followers and was able to use a third party affiliate link to gain some commission from the clothes that they show on their stories? Then they would have to declare ‘Ad’ as they are gaining commission from sales.
Yet, the network marketers are gaining commission from their sales and not disclosing that their posts are adverts?
What is the difference and where does the ASA stand on this?
THE ASA DON’T REALLY STAND ANYWHERE
The ASA seems to be nothing but a website full of advice and guidance. There are no ‘you must not do this’ and ‘you cannot do this’. Most of what I’m seeing is just ‘we advise…’. Is that good enough?
I’ve spoken quite a lot before about the ASA, their new rules and their lack of monitoring the influencer industry on social media. I know it’s a vast industry, but I see so many posts that don’t follow the ASA guidelines and they continue to get away with it.
There doesn’t seem to be any guidelines in place for network marketing on the ASA website, but there are guidelines for pyramid schemes as they’re technically illegal yet still exist.
WHERE DO YOU STAND?
Forgetting about the Advertising Standards Authority, where do you stand on this issue? Do you think network marketers should be disclosing their posts as Ads or affiliate links?
Is it ethical for them to sell products that will get them commission and not declare that as such? One can’t assume that a customer will know this information or know what they are signing themselves up for.
In my own humble opinion, I do think that there needs to be a harder cracking down on social media advertising – especially when it’s coming from influencers and network marketers.
Just yesterday I saw a PR post a clearly sponsored ad that included a discount code on her Instagram page and there was no sign of #ad, #afflink or #sponsored anywhere. If the PR can’t get it right, how can we expect the influencer to?