From cookie dough to toilet paper, to Xanax, nearly everything we consume is regulated. However there is one sector of society that is noticeably lacking in rules and regulation—the realm of social media Influencers. There are virtually no laws dictating what Influencers can and can’t do, and the standards for transparency in advertising tend to be very low. Some say that this needs to change. Pulse is one of the largest social media advertising companies around, and its CEO Christoph Kastenholz has much to say on the issue.
Regulation issues come into play in the world of influencing when the line between personal, unaffiliated content, and advertisements becomes blurred. In the spirit of Truth in Advertising (which is codified under FCC guidelines), people selling things must be up front and honest. These standards are in place to protect consumers. However Kastenholz points out that many magazines and media companies do not always abide by these expectations, saying
“The first two pages of a magazine are the most expensive in terms of advertising. If a fashion or beauty brand advertises here, you will probably find them featured later on in the magazine too, in an editorial where it’s not labelled paid partnership.”
However, although other sectors of society don’t always follow the rules, Kastenholz insists this is no excuse to lay caution to the wind in terms of consumer protection. Some ways to increase transparency on social media include the use of labels that say “Paid partnership.” The CEO has personal experience with the issue, as
“We [at Pulse] were actually the first to introduce the pilot of the ‘paid partnership’-label together with Instagram. Instagram worked on the feature, and we piloted it with the sports brand Puma.”
Regardless of the manner in which it happens, Kastenholz firmly believes that
“Regulation needs to happen. We want to drive that as much as possible because, at the end of the day, it only helps us, and it makes it easier for brands to be active in the space.”
Now the only problem is how the enormous task of regulating the fluid and ever-changing world of social media would even be possible, given its global and democratic nature. For now, its pretty safe to assume that any product placement is, well, a product placement. Whether or not you buy what’s being advertised is ostensibly up to you.