New guidelines require that Lithuanian social media personalities clearly indicate when they promote products and services.
Beata Nicholson is a well-known TV show host and author of a number of cook books. She has over 200,000 followers on Facebook with whom she shares daily photos and videos from her life as well as advise about food and best products for cooking.
We are living in a “recommendation economy”, she says, where someone's advice is the most potent form of advertising.
There are about 300 individuals in Lithuania with a large enough social media following to make them ‘influencers’. Many regularly post positive messages about products and get paid for it. While this is essentially the definition of advertising, only about one in five would mark their posts as such, advertising agencies say.
“If I receive any kind of compensation, I write ‘good things ad’, that is I do not hide it is advertising [...] and I only advertise what I like and use myself,” Nicholson says.
Many social media influencers have previously complained that the rules are unclear how to mark promotional messages. Some would add #ad (in English) at the end.
To clear this up, the Consumer Rights Protection Authority has presented guidelines which they compiled after monitoring ten influential social media accounts.
Inga Grinevičė, the Authority's spokeswoman, explains that, under the guidelines, promotional messages in Lithuanian should be labeled “reklama” (“advertisement” in Lithuanian). The label should follow immediately after the main body of the message and not be buried in a string of hashtags.
Moreover, the guidelines clarify what is considered advertising, Grinevičė adds. Competitions to win a sponsored product, brand ambassadorships and partnerships, posts with discount codes are all included in the definition.
TV host Rimantė Kulvinskytė, who has over 36,000 followers on Instagram, says that some social media influencers may fear that the mandatory labeling would deter some of their followers.
However, she does not believe that the fears are justified. Advertisers themselves sometimes insist on labeling the messages, Kulvinskytė says, and it has little effect on the reach.