By Sushma Veera
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 8: Social media influencers with their enormous reach and direct connection to audiences, are now a powerful force in shaping public opinion – particularly consumer behaviour.
In surveying 8,182 Malaysians last October, Statista and Rakuten Insight found that 59 per cent said they were moved to purchase a product because it was endorsed by an influencer.
However, there has been a disturbing rise in cases of influencers misleading their audiences over the products they promote, with some getting involved in outright scams, which can adversely impact not only consumers, but threaten the influencer industry as a whole.
“Influencers have social clout in their communities and trust is what sustains it,” Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia executive director Mediha Mahmood said.
“When influencers hide the fact that their recommendations are actually paid advertisements, they are depriving consumers from the benefit of making an informed choice. Consumers may not be as easily convinced to make that purchase, if they had known the influencer was paid to post what they posted.”
“One mistake can undo all their good work and annihilate their reputation, effectively ending future opportunities to make a living out of their influence. Disclosure of paid-promotions by influencers is a requirement in almost all markets around the world – it is based on the simple principle of transparency and accountability,” Mediha said.
She said self-regulation can help influencers avoid the inevitable backlash that occurs when irresponsible behaviour is exposed and is the best way forward in cultivating a healthy online space for both content creators and consumers.
A useful resource for self-regulation is the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code which is a set of guidelines outlining best practices and ethical standards for content in the digital space.
Given that influencers now play a key role in marketing and outreach strategies, Mediha added that self-regulation also protects influencers themselves from being manipulated by advertisers who use them to flout advertising rules.
The Content Forum is currently conducting a nationwide public consultation exercise to gather public feedback on the proposed revisions.
Among the revisions to be included are guidelines encouraging influencers and news providers to disclose paid promotions, as well as enhanced protections for minors from being targeted by manipulative online advertising.
Further information on this can be viewed at www.contentforum.my.
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