LinkedIn influencers face scrutiny over disclosure norms and legal compliance

Highlighting two recent incidents on LinkedIn involving advertising and marketing leaders who posted paid content praising ad campaigns without adhering to influencer guidelines, Manisha Kapoor from ASCI stressed the significance of transparency in online endorsements

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LinkedIn influencers face scrutiny over disclosure norms and legal compliance

The world of social media influencers has seen its fair share of controversies, from health and financial influencers to the latest entrants in the line of fire - the ‘Linkedfluencers.’

An intriguing incident shed light on the need for better transparency in online endorsements and adherence to advertising standards.

It all began when the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) found itself tagged in a post on LinkedIn, shared Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General of ASCI, on LinkedIn.

The post in question featured an agency co-founder applauding a well-known e-commerce company's advertisement. Such accolades are not uncommon on LinkedIn, often serving as a way to commend professional work and achievements.

Kapoor wrote, “However, the person who tagged ASCI grew suspicious that this post might be a paid promotion. This suspicion arose because a few other individuals were discussing the same advertisement in a similar fashion and talking about how innovative it was.”

She further wrote, “It was rightly pointed out by the person who tagged ASCI that a co-founder of an agency should have been aware of the influencer disclosure norms outlined by ASCI. (By the way, these disclosure requirements are now also a part of the law.)”

Subsequently, the individual who posted the appreciation added the hashtag "ad" to the post.

Even after the ad agency co-founder added the hashtag, Kapoor listed two issues which remain unresolved:

1. Both the ASCI code and the law emphasise that disclosures must be prominent and upfront. In this instance, the term "ad" was tucked away at the very end of the entire post.

2. As consumers, we should know if something is an ad before engaging with it. When the line between organic content and promotions blurs, it becomes the influencer's responsibility to declare a paid promotion. This can be accomplished either through the platform's disclosure tool or with a clear and upfront declaration.

Following this incident, she mentioned another incident, where an individual praised a liquor brand. This individual, whose LinkedIn profile identified them as a "Marketing professional with a digital mindset," also placed the disclosure "ad" at the post's tail end. Apart from the problematic disclosure, both the individual and the advertiser seemed unaware that promoting liquor directly on a professional platform could lead to legal repercussions.”

Kapoor highlighted that under the guise of professional opinions, we are seeing paid advertisements embedded in numerous posts. “There is nothing inherently wrong with promoting ads, but doing so without proper disclosures can invite ASCI actions and potentially run afoul of the law,” she added.

She then emphasised that transparency and compliance are the keys to successful influencer marketing in the digital age.

After the development created a stir on LinkedIn, Karthik Srinivasan, a Communications Strategy Expert and thought leader, took to the platform and shared that he gets at least 2-3 emails and messages every single week from assorted "influencer" agencies asking him for 'his rate' for sharing something about a new ad campaign, specifically on LinkedIn (with details sought of additional rate if I were to cross-post it on Instagram and Twitter too).

He said, “I ignore all these messages or emails, but when they persist, I respond to them by explaining my default stand: "No paid posts. At all. My words or opinions are not for sale on any social media platform".

He clarified that every single post he writes/shares, whether on LinkedIn or on his blog, whether he praises a campaign or criticises it, has no monetary involvement.

He continued, “There's nothing wrong with being an influencer or charging per post, as long as it is done within the guidelines of prevailing rules and laws.”

guidelines endorsement ASCI LinkedIn influencer LinkedIn Influencer