6 Ethical Rules Social Media Influencers Should Follow

Published March 14th, 2021 - 03:00 GMT
Social media influencer
There has been in influx of social media users over the last few years. (Shutterstock: Happykikky)

There is no trend more defining of the last few years as much as social media influencers. While the last decade witnessed a great development in internet use including the emerging social media platforms, the last few years have featured an influx of individuals who use their phones to connect with thousands, and in some cases millions, of people around the world.

In the digital world, it has been easy for people to become social media influencers. This term refers to a huge number of people who attract large numbers of online followers; ones that are interested in the content they provide, whether their content is based on their life experiences, on their hobbies, interests, views, or simply their lifestyles.

While social media influencers have drawn the attention of their followers for the fun of it during the first few years of the trend, they can now safely consider their digital presence a source of significant income.

Over the last several years, brands and businesses have resorted to social media's popular figures to promote their products and services to wider audiences, especially that people now spend more time on their mobile phones than they do watching TV or reading newspapers or magazines.

This new shift in the marketing world has enabled thousands of influencers to make money, which in many cases has led them to leave their other more traditional jobs, so they can take care of their brand new online-based jobs.

However, while there have been no rules in the past to govern how people make money through social media, there is a growing concern that content provided by some social media influencers violates basic ethics and rules.

In 2018, the UAE government has paid attention to this matter, which has led it to issue a new social media law that forces social media influencers to have special licenses, ones that aim to regulate their digital activities as long as they work from the UAE. In addition, the UAE Federal Tax Authority has recently announced new that supplies provided by artists and social media influencers for consideration are subject to Value Added Tax.

Below, we will highlight a number of main rules that social media users in other parts of the world do not have to legally abide by, but need to consider to maintain their activities as ethical as possible:

1. Sponsored content disclaimers

It is crucial that social media users know the difference between actual impartial product or service reviews and ads that have been paid for by the provider.

Make sure you tell your followers that the content you are posting is sponsored whenever you are getting paid for the story or the post you are putting out there.  

2. Keep it honest

Even when you are paid to promote a service, tell your followers your honest opinion of it. Followers appreciate honesty more than anything else, which is why they are following you. Telling them the pros and the cons of whatever you are promoting before telling them that you still recommend it is how you can actually help the brand grow.

The more honest your reviews are, the more trusted you are as an influencer, which can potentially bring you even more expensive brands as future clients.

3. Be aware of who you represent

With a huge number of brands and businesses looking for the ideal social media influencer to represent them, you too have to be smart about your choices.

Whenever you receive an offer from a brand, research their products, their history, their values, and make sure they are all good enough for you to promote.

You don't want to advertise for a product known to cause harm or to represent a company with a suspicious history.

4. Set fixed prices

Respectable influencers often set prices for their services and make it known to the public, or at least to agents. Again, this helps with their authenticity and supports consumer's trust in their content.

Not having clear prices announced often gives the impression of an unorganized and sneaky influencer.

5. Allow critics

It is hard to tolerate social media trolls, especially ones that flood posts with negative comments. However, an influencer who keeps removing such comments can soon start to eliminate reasonable critical voices, eventually leading to their followers believing that they only allow praising comments.

Allow space for challenging views, for people who disagree with your opinion of review of whatever you are promoting. If you choose to engage with the points they raise, do it respectfully and keep an open mind.

This way, readers will trust you even more.

6. Add value

While it has become known that social media influencers are online for the money they make these days, it is still quite nice to see them care about valuable issues they would like their followers to think about or contribute to. 

If you post 5 different ads every week, take a few days to raise awareness for a noble issue. Maybe hold a charity event or share a donation link for a cause you care about. This will make you more trustworthy for your followers, as you will come off as less materialistic and more human.

What other rules do you think social media influencers need to consider in their digital careers? Which of the above rules are the most important ones? 

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