New Guidelines for Indian Social Media Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers

Influencer Marketing has been a successful way to promote products and reach out to wider audience. During the lockdown period (due to coronavirus), many people joined social media platform to entertain themselves, start a new career or find a way to keep boredom away. Since then Influencer Marketing has evolved and gained a lot of popularity, hence, why would brands stay behind. Most of the brands started focusing and investing in Digital Marketing through Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers. As consumers were shopping digitally, so social media platforms were their first preference to search information about the products, places or services. This increase in Influencer Marketing made The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to come up with New Guidelines for Indian Social Media Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers. Want to know what are they? Read on!

New Guidelines for Indian Social Media Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers

Why are Guidelines Necessary?

The Guidelines set by ASCI will help the consumers to clearly see the what is promotional content and what is a real content. It will make everything more transparent in front of the consumer. ASCI says, "Consumers may view promotional content without knowing what is the commercial intent behind it. This is a kind of misleading the consumers and in violation of clause 1.4 (misleading by omission) and 1.5 (abuse trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge)."

*The above statement source is Economic Times

What are the Guidelines?

In simple terms, 'DON'T HIDE ANYTHING! DISCLOSE CLEARLY!'

It is essential for Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers to clearly disclose the nature of the content that they are posting over various social media platforms.

1. The influencers need to disclose whether the content is an advertisement or a paid collaboration or gifted by brand or honest review of product they bought or promo of newly launched brand or product (in case of repost from brand's page) or just a piece of real content. The words used to make the disclosure should be normal words that can be understood by all in any language.

2. The influencer has to declare #AD or #paidpartnership or #sponsoredpost in the first two lines of the caption (preferably in the beginning) so that the consumer who watches the content would know the nature of it. This will make clear understanding for the consumers to know if its only an advertisement or it is real experience shared by the influencer. 

New Guidelines for Indian Social Media Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers

3. If there is no caption or written information then the influencer need to declare #AD or #Sponsored or #Gifted, etc. in the picture or the video itself. It should be clearly visible to the consumers, hence the font or logo should be of decent size (not too small, not too big).

4. For video contents the disclose of collaboration should be done for 1/3 of the video length, if the video is under 2 minutes. It should be stated from the beginning itself. For videos above 2 minutes, the disclosure has to be there throughout the video.

5. No filters should be used on pictures or videos while declaring facts, situations, places, shades, results, etc. For example, if you are reviewing a lipstick then the shade should be same in the picture as it appears in real. And if you are posting a video of a place, then there should be real facts and situations shown in it. There should be no editing that changes the real appearance of the content being shared.

6. For audio or music promotions, it should be announced in the beginning of the audio or video and at the end as well. The label or artist or promotional information should also be mentioned in the starting of the caption.

7. For YouTubers you need to make the disclosure in the title or the first line of the description. For creating Vlogs, overlay the disclosure on the video itself.

8. For Bloggers, you need to make the disclosure clear in the title or the first line of the article being posted. If the content of the article is your own and you are linking a dofollow/nofollow link (that's paid or an AD) then you need to mention it along with the link.

If you don't follow any of these guidelines then you would be asked to take down the content within 24-36 hours. Not only this, if there is a serious issue or complaint then your account can be reported or taken down as well. So, better be careful from now on and disclose everything clearly!

Note: I would update the exact guidelines once ASCI announces them in the month of April!

What does the Guidelines mean? How to Apply Them?

I am sure, many of you would be happy knowing about the guidelines, but there are few hidden facts as well. Let's go deeper into the guidelines and understand with examples what they actually mean and how you need to make the disclosure. I would be using the name 'AMY' while talking about infleuncer or blogger or youtuber.

1. ABC Brand approached Amy for a paid collaboration of their lipsticks. Amy accepts the collaboration, but the brand asked her to post it the same day (or within 1 day) when she receive the products, so how will the content be?

Amy will receive the products and she would post it on the same day, but she would disclose it as an #AD in the pictures or the first line of the caption. Why? Because she is informing the consumer about the product of ABC Brand. She has yet not experienced the product, so it cannot be an experience.

How will the consumer take this? The consumer will clearly see that it is an advertisement by their favourite influencer, so they would take it as an announcement or information about the product. They would clearly know that the influencer is being paid to talk about the product.

2. ABC Brand launches a face cream and approaches Amy for a paid collaboration. The ABC Brand claims that the face cream brightens skin, gives a smooth skin texture and youthful glow. Amy clearly states that she would use it for few weeks and then review or talk (honest experience) about it after she sees the results. ABC Brand agrees to this.

Amy will receive the products and share stories about it mentioning #AD (Because she will be talking about the product and what the brand claims). Within few weeks, she would be showing her experience and usage from time to time (to show the consumers that she is using it) so that consumers know that she is actually using it. After 2-4 weeks when Amy sees visible results then she will be posting (no filter) picture or video with review, her experience and before and after pictures. She can mention that it is a #sponsoredpost #reviewafteruse #realexperience.

How will the consumer take this? The consumer will take it as an advertisement when Amy posted for the first time. Later, when the consumer watches that she is herself using it and the results would be visible in before and after (no filter) images then they would believe that it is a piece of content because Amy used it and experienced the results claimed by the brand. This would be absorbed as content by the consumers, so they would go ahead and buy it if they face similar skin issues.

3. ABC Brand and XYZ Brand both launches a new product, say a Face Serum. Both of them approach Amy for collaboration (paid or barter, anything). She accepts the collaboration and receives the products. ABC Brand says that she has to post within 7 days of receiving the product and XYZ Brand says she can post it within few weeks as per her experience. What will she do?

Amy will post the review or information of face serum by ABC Brand within 7 days of receiving the product. This would be treated as an #AD because face serum takes time to show results and it cannot show visible results in short span of time. Even if this is barter collaboration, it will be treated as an #AD #Gifted. After 3-4 weeks when she shares the review of XYZ Brand's face serum then she will be sharing about her real experience and talking about the claims, so this will be treated as content because Amy tried, tested, saw results and then she is sharing it with others. For this, if it is a barter collaboration then mention #Gifted and if it is a paid collaboration then mention #sponsoredpost #realexperience #reviewafteruse

4. ABC Brand sends Hair pack to Amy and XYZ Brand also sends their hair pack to Amy. Both the brands asks her to post it soon as its a launching campaign, so what will she do?

Amy will post about ABC Brand's hair mask on Monday claiming it to be an #AD or experience after 1-2 usage. And on Wednesday (same week), she posts about XYZ Brand's hair mask. But is it possible to use 2 products of same nature at one time and see results? No! So, both these posts will be treated as an advertisement (if its barter or paid).

How will the consumer watch it? The consumer can take both of these as advertisements as they would feel that she is just promoting the products because brand sent it to her. The consumers can take the first post as her real experience because she mentioned that she used it twice. But they would take the second post as an advertisement because she couldn't use it before posting the review.

5. ABC Brand approaches Amy to review their new outlet. The brand says that they would share the images and she has to post it on her profile. How this will be treated?

This would purely be treated as an #AD or #Promo of the outlet because Amy didn't visit the place to experience the services. If the brand would have given her a chance to visit it like a consumer with few of her friends or family members (who are not influencers, bloggers or youtubers) then it could be treated as #RealExperience because it could be possible that the outlet makes very good arrangements for the influencers to have good brand impression over social media but in reality they would not take same care of their Real consumers. So, always think before you take up a collaboration!

I hope that the above examples would have made it clear on how the content will be consumed by your audience. Now, let me tell you a way to post your own content (not an #ad).

If Amy posts pictures or videos of her Morning Skincare routine then that would be considered as content (only if the products shared are not of single brand). She would share how she uses various products of different brands every day. Although, you can mention along with each product information if it is bought by you or gifted by the brand to be more clear with your audience.

Will this Effect Influencer Marketing?

Yes, to some extent it will surely effect! Now brands would be more careful while selecting the influencers, bloggers and youtubers for their collaborations. They would opt for genuine content creators who actually use the products or services and have knowledge about the niche. They would now keep a check on the content that is being posted by the influencer, so that no misleading information is being said out.

But there's loop hole in every field, so still few brands would opt for influencers with big numbers only who just clicked cool pictures and promote the products with just 1-2 liners. So, they need to be careful because it would be clearly visible to the consumer and they need to disclose the #AD. If few brands ask you not to disclose #AD or #PaidPartnership or #SponsoredPost then I would suggest to not collaorate with them because if someone reports about it then you and your account will be in trouble.

What Changes can Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers Bring?

1. Keep 60:40 ratio! It is essential for content creators to keep a ratio between their original content and collaborations. Post 60% of own content and take up only 40% or lesser collaborations in a month. This makes you more genuine and the consumers feel that you are not bombarding them with only collaborations.

New Guidelines for Indian Social Media Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers

2. Be Clear! It is your duty to be clear and honest with your audience. Always think that you are also a consumer, how would you feel if a brand or a person fools you with claims about a product that doesn't work? So, think from consumer's point of view and share what's honest.

3. Barter Collaborations! Avoid taking up lot of barter collaborations. Many brands still want to do barter collaborations and give their products (because they don't want to put additional cost), but you should start saying No to them. If the brand is okay for you to try and post if you like it or see results then its fine, do it as per your own wish. But if a brand says that you need to post as per theme or as we say within 1-2 days then avoid taking up such campaigns because they would share the same with all and it would be clearly visible that its a promotional campaign. This also helps you to avoid hoarding stuff that you might not use.

4. Avoid similar, bombaring campaigns! We all have seen few brands giving a time, a day to every influencer and asks them to post the content at the same time. This way you see just that brand or products everywhere. Such gimmicks are used to create an impression of the products or campaign on your mind, but now consumers are becoming smart. They understand that it is being done for the sake of marketing and if done too often they get irritated and it forms a bad impression on their mind. Avoild taking up such campaigns regularly or often every month.

5. Avoid Editing! It is essential to show the true results or facts or places while talking or claiming something. So, avoid editing your pictures or videos. You can edit them lightly only if you are posting a normal content which doesn't claim or state any relatable facts. Like, if you say your teeth are visibly whiter after using a toothpaste then you should show no filter image and not whiten teeth in photo editing apps. This would be against the rules. Edit only for the purpose of entertainment and not factual information or claims.

6. Disclose the Devices! If possible then disclose what devices you used for the content. Why? Because a picture or video shot with a phone camera would be different and the same shot with professional camera would be different. Many phones have inbuilt beautifying features which change the colours or beauty of the content, so avoid such features and declare what device you have used.

7. Convince Brands! Yes, you can turn a barter collaboration into a paid collaboration by convincing a brand. If does take efforts, but if you are confident with your content then you can convince the brand to pay you for the work. But please don't put down your content, value it and let others value it as well. You would face rejections in the starting but after a point you would see that brands do pay. So, AFFIRM - I WILL SAY NO TO BARTER COLLABORATIONS. I WILL RECEIVE PAID COLLABORATIONS!

New Guidelines for Indian Social Media Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers

I hope that this article was useful and informative to you all. If you have any questions or queries then do comment below, I would answer them as soon as I receive in the notification. Also remember sharing is caring, so share this article with other influencers, bloggers and youtubers you know. They should also be aware of the changes. I hope the industry changes and becomes better with the New Guidelines for Indian Social Media Influencers, Bloggers and YouTubers.

Thank you!

Amrit Kaur (Amy)

Lifestyle Blogger, Delhi

"The information shared is my understanding after reading various articles over Internet. I have mentioned the source of information in the article above."
Copyright Notice: ©️ Amrit Kaur (Amy). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site's owner is strictly prohibited. All the images represented here are the copyright of the site's owner, Amrit Kaur. The images have clicked by me through Canon camera or Samsung Mobile. They are further edited in Adobe Photoshop or/and Canva.

23 Comments

  1. Though I do not do a lot of brand collaborations but it is good to know the updated guidelines. I am very happy that it stresses over the need of delivering the clear picture. Also what you wrote about 60-40% makes complete sense. Same goes for barter collaboration. Overall it is a must read for all those who are into creative field.

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  2. As an influencer sometimes I really get confused to do a paid or barter collaboration but at times it is really important to keep the feed active.. Thank you for sharing this informative post.

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  3. Amrit, you have explained all the guidelines very carefully and in simple language. We all need to understand that we content creators need to disclose every information to the readers.

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  4. Thank you so much Amritsar.. These guidelines will be very useful for all of us do that we do not break any rules. Very informative and detailed post.

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  5. I like your tips on how to handle the change. As it is I didn't like theme collabs and barters a lot. But am now going to use this Affirmation as a mantra to get right revenue. And you are right, 60:40 is the normal media ratio for advertisements and edits, so we should also follow that for our blogs. Good info!

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  6. thank you so much for sharing this.. the guidelines are so confusing at times and you have done a great job to simplify this in the best possible way.. highly greatful to help people like me

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  7. I was completely unaware of the guidelines in detail though I knew something has been there. Thanks for sharing it. Quite informative for me

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  8. These are some important points that would change the face of blogging and social media influencing. It is important that the influencers are educated on this. The post like yours are much needed to spread the awareness

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  9. I am so happy with this updated guidelines. This is actually required for all of us

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  10. This is very informative. I am glad that finally in India norms for social media influencing is getting stricter coz without rules everything is a haywire.

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  11. This is a new development in one that will change how a lot of people work. This is a well-written and helpful article which clearly explains what are the changes and I really like the examples through which you have explain how these need to be applied.

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  12. I'm glad that finally we are moving towards streamlining this sector as well. These guidelines were "needed" and they came at the right time.

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  13. As an influencer I'm glad these guidelines have been introduced since it will offer genuinety to the work that honest people put in. We have a responsibility and we must handle it carefully.

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  14. I have read the presumption of the actual policy and this is a most welcome initiative by the Union ministry. You too have explained it very well, hope we see our sector well reformed and informed pretty soon.

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  15. I feel it to be a radical step in bringing blogging and other allied digital marketing verticals to making it as an industry. Thanks for the detailed article about it and clearing few doubts that I had regarding sponsored product reviews.

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  16. Informative! We all have to be responsible and adhere to these guidelines. Thanks for sharing.

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  17. Thanks Amy for explaining the new guidelines. This is extremely useful for creators to understand on how to work with brands.

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  18. My first reaction to the guidelines itself is trying to be too over-cautious. Overall it is a must read for all those who are in this field.

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  19. This is a very helpful information. Sometimes some brands or agencies strictly advices to not refer of any paid or sponsorship information on the post. What can be done in these scenarios?

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    1. Hey for this you would have to either drop out the collaboration or make the brand or agency understand that you have to be honest with your audiences. And with the new guidelines brands and agencies need to be more careful as well

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  20. This is really a great article but will keep everything in mind. You explain it so well.

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  21. I'm busy with my little one and hardly get time to stay updated. Amrit, this post is a savior for me. Loved the detailing and layman terms examples too :)

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