11 April 2019


Kate Campbell Perth Now

February 5, 2019 12:00AM

Sex sells, as we are repeatedly told ad nauseam. And you may as well go ahead and add another buzz term to that well-worn marketing motto — social media.

Love it or loathe it, we are living in a time when Instagram “influencers” wield much power over their mainly millennial followers — sometimes just as much, if not more, than conventional celebrities. But how much should we be buying into what these Instagrammers are, in many cases, being paid to sell?

As laid bare in jaw-dropping detail in a new documentary, the disaster that was 2017’s Fyre Festival — a “luxury” Bahamas music festival promoted by influencers and supermodels including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski that ultimately collapsed before it even started because of a fraudster entrepreneur and dodgy organisation — is an extreme cautionary tale about the power of influencers in selling an unattainable dream, but also the need to be upfront when a post is in fact, a paid advertisement.

So what are the rules here? In Australia, there are only guidelines, which recommend influencers who are being paid — with money or products — clearly distinguish their posts as ads. This can be done simply by using hashtags like #ad or #spon. But influencers are not forced to follow these guidelines.

Perth marketing guru Nicole Moody, from Hunter Communications, said while influencer marketing was widely used in Perth, the vast majority at the moment was unpaid. An influencer instead is likely to be offered tickets or products in exchange for posts.

But those influencers who are pocketing money in Perth are paid between $75 and $350 a post, Ms Moody estimates. Eastern States influencers with bigger, more national fan bases, can earn up to $500 a post.

“I’d say we’re probably a few years off … but I think we’ll start to see people (in Perth) make a living out of this, rather than it being a supplementary income,” she said.

“They have a lot of power particularly amongst that millennial audience. I have a 16-year-old son who is massively influenced on what sneakers he will wear by not just celebrities now, but influencers.

“We’re seeing the new wave of the Perthonality is the influencer. It’s not right for every brand and it’s not right for every audience … it really is predominately a 40-and-under platform.”

Ms Moody said while not all influencers stuck to the guidelines and disclosed when posts were paid for, it was best practice to do so.

“It is a grey area, and it’s a guideline only … but it’s authenticity that makes a great influencer and part of being authentic is being upfront.”

Kate O’Hara, director of Perth’s The Influencer Agency, said inquiries from businesses to use influencers had “gone through the roof” since the agency launched in 2017. The agency engages with more than 50 Perth influencers, who have followings of at least 3000. She said business clients savvy enough to tap into this new age of marketing were predominately from the private sector.

The agency’s influencer outreach co-ordinator Jamey-Lee Franz said more businesses were using “micro-influencers” with smaller, niche followings of 3000 to 20,000. “I think most of them are sticking to those guidelines (for sponsored content). I follow tonnes and tonnes of influencers and you can definitely see the difference between a paid post and just a normal post,” Mr Franz said.

Perth home design and lifestyle blogger and influencer Maya Anderson said anyone could call themselves an influencer, but the mark of a successful one was someone who “cottons on to what people want at this point in time”.

Ms Anderson, who is also an STM contributor, has an Instagram base of almost 14,000, but said the size of your following was not the sole measure of whether you could earn money.

“You could have 40,000 followers on Instagram, but if only 200 like your photo and five leave a comment, some brands won’t invest in you.

One engaged follower is worth more than 100 ‘ghost followers’ that never like or comment,

Ms Anderson said in accepting products, she was under no obligation. “Now that I’ve been blogging for so many years, I get sent parcels of unsolicited products every week. But I have to admit, at risk of sounding awful, I give most of it away — my house is only so big. If I really like something and think my readers will appreciate it too, I will share it, but if it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t fit my aesthetic or whatever, I don’t,” she said.

As part of its normal marketing budget, the City of Perth uses ratepayers’ funds to pay social media influencers to spruik various campaigns.

“As an example we engage family micro-influencers to experience and create content in the lead-up to family-friendly or school holiday events and activations in the City,” chair commissioner Eric Lumsden said.

“Beyond access to captive audiences … the use of influencers in digital media is highly measurable.

“The City spends an average of $10,000 on influencers per campaign, varying based on the size of each campaign. There are seven headline campaigns per annum … a campaign will typically engage up to 15 influencers (with a following of between 10,000 and 200,000).”

A spokeswoman for Ad Standards, the advertising industry’s regulatory body, said influencers should “take note” of the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics, which states “advertising or marketing communication shall be clearly distinguishable as such to the relevant audience”.

“There are no rules in Australia that require the use of #ad or #spon in posts. However, using it for paid-for posts is a simple way to ensure an influencer’s followers can distinguish it as advertising.

“If members of the public see a post from an influencer they believe to be an ad, but it is not clearly distinguishable as such, they can make a complaint to Ad Standards.”

A spokesman for the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission said failure to disclose a commercial arrangement was involved in the promotion of a product or service to a consumer could contravene Australian consumer law “through misleading by omission”.

WA Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard said influencers were not under any written obligation to disclose commercial arrangements and were free to express their opinions, but it could be the companies that pay them that were ultimately held to account if it’s found the influencer’s claims were false or misleading.