Social Media is Not a Lawless Space |

With the influencer marketing space becoming increasingly popular for advertisements over the past few years, legislation is slowly starting to catch up on this fast growing industry. Not only in Germany but also in the US, regulations about the dos and don’ts of influencer collaborations with brands on social media are becoming stricter. Read below to be up to date on the latest developments in both countries:

US
Many are aware that the Federal Trade Commission has established new rules that influencers have to abide by when partnering with brands. The objective is to create more transparency for consumers so they are easily able to differentiate between paid and unpaid content on social media – especially on Instagram. The four guidelines below highlight the most important aspects on what to look out for when partnering with brands:

  • 1. Disclose visibly when you have a financial/family relationship with a brand
  • 2. Ensure that this disclosure is hard to miss – disclosure tools on platforms are often insufficient
  • 3. Avoid ambiguous disclosures in the form of abbreviations such as #spon or #collab
  • 4. Superimpose disclosures over images on platforms like Snapchat or Instagram Story.

Germany
The influencer industry in Germany is taking the above even one step further. The recent wave of cease-and-desist letters that many German influencers have received over the past year has shaken up the influencer scene in the country. Most of the time, the claim is similar: the influencer has failed to mark an advertisement correctly. The Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb (VSW) – a German association which prosecutes violations of competitive rule – is actively pursuing these cases with the goal to achieve transparency for consumers. In their eyes, every time an influencer tags a brand in one of their Instagram posts or stories (even if they don’t get paid), the post has to be clearly marked as an advertisement. #Ad is not enough anymore.

Initially being written off as a scare tactic, some influencers have experienced severe repercussions after losing their cases in court and having to pay four to five-figure fines, including influencers like @vrenifrost. This development has led more and more German influencers to mark all of their posts as advertisements, even if they are only tagging a friend and you can see the logo of the clothes that they are wearing. It’s definitely questionable if the VSW is successful in actually bringing more transparency to consumers by pursuing this strategy. Either way, it is imperative for new legislation to give clear guidance for this industry as it slowly matures.

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