For many brands, social media influencers have become a mainstay of their promotional strategy.  However, social media users are growing increasingly wary of blurred lines between genuine lifestyle choices and paid-for partnerships.

With the power of social media here to stay, what can be done to rebuild trust between influencers and their audiences when brands are involved?

Transparency is key.  It’s becoming ever more important for consumers buying into products on social media and for businesses deciding how to allocate their marketing spend.

Last year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) played its part in the quest for transparency by introducing a requirement for influencers to declare when a post is sponsored, or risk being listed on a public non-compliance register if they don’t.  By using ‘paid promotion’ indications, or ‘#AD’ and ‘#gifted’ tags, the idea is that the consumer is clear on the context of the promotion and can better evaluate its authenticity.

Has this and other efforts to tighten rules on influencers worked?  In part, yes – a recent survey of 9,000 global consumers by Bazaarvoice found that 36 per cent were more trusting of influencers since the crackdown.  However, that means the majority are still to be convinced.

Stricter guidelines would help.  For example, there should be rules stipulating that disclaimers or notifications are added to posts containing an edited image or video, and businesses should make this a condition of any influencer partnerships they enter into.

Playing by the rules would help too.  Influencers, brands and social media platforms all need to work within them, and the watchdogs should take a firmer stand against businesses and influencers that don’t. Until that happens, transparency will continue to be an issue and consumer trust in influencers will suffer as a result.

Archie Hamilton is an account assistant at Camargue