A code of practice to help marketers and celebrities wade through the murky area of paid-for-tweets is likely be in place locally within two years.
Consumer advocacy group Choice has called for more transparency around the ‘cash for tweet’ practice and social media specialists agree it’s needed.
“Other areas, such as Facebook moderation, have had considerable attention from the Advertising Standards Board and the ACCC as a way of protecting consumers from deceptive and offensive material,” Kristen Boschma, general manager of Aegis Media’s The Social Hatch, said.
Celebrity endorsements will be subject to scrutiny and Boschma believes there will be an industry code of practice to govern the issue in place within two years.
Social media is “awash with dodgy advertorial style posts”, according to Choice’s head of media Tom Godfrey.
Paid-tweets as a marketing tactic is on the rise but Carl Burgmann, digital strategist from social@Ogilvy, says it’s hard to put a figure on exactly how widespread the practice is but believes a code is important.
“As more reality TV shows go to air that is going to boost the number of people using Twitter and celebrity numbers are going to grow – we have to be on to it and up to date with what is best practice.”
The STW-owned social@Ogilvy agency has employed a transparent approach to branded social media messaging, including a disclaimer if a celebrity has been approached to tweet or blog about a product or brand.
Boschma agrees that the way “through this murky swamp is transparency”.
She believes fans are ok with celebrity endorsements if there aren’t too many, that the personality genuinely believes what they are tweeting and that paid endorsements are declared.
“Smart brands will ask celebrities to trial a product or service and let them tweet about their experience in genuine terms,” she added.
“I’ve always insisted that celebrites and bloggers declare upfront their involvement and I’ve briefed my clients to expect the truth.
“Not everyone is comfortable with that level of risk but I think transparency and genuine opinions are going to be better for brands, consumers and celebrities in the long run.”
Sam Mutimer, director of social media at Thinktank Social, agrees with Choice that not-declared brand funded celebrity tweets are “deceptive advertising”.
However she disagrees with Choice’s claim that consumers are being “fooled into thinking that because celebrities plug products on social media that they personally use these products”.
“I agree in some level with Choice, in saying that online consumers in 2013 are extremely savvy in seeing through the smoke and mirrors approach that brands still think they’re tricking us into.”
Nevertheless, she questions the value of the ‘cash for tweet’ exchange for brands.
“I think brands need to be aware of the implications of paid celebrity tweets – they’re just not worth the time.
“Transparency and authenticity will always ride through on social media. Break this and you’ll get found out very quickly, leaving you in a very awkward and detrimental situation.”