Monday, 8 July 2019

Will Social Media Ever Be Regulated in Nigeria?

Across the globe, governments irrespective of whether they are democracies or authoritarian regimes; are struggling to deal with what could be described as an ungoverned space. Less than 15 years ago, the custodians of information and news were regulated news and media outfits who could be largely held to account for what they publish. Fast forward to today, anyone can publish anything on social media platforms, and literally light up the news cycle.

In Nigeria, it still remain a debate whether social media should be regulated.

The National Information Technology Agency, NITDA, recently released new regulatory guidelines to regulate the use of social media in Ministries, Departments and Agencies in the country. This is in its acknowledgement of the important role the social media plays in promoting government policies and propagating ideas in the public.

Meanwhile, the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) is enforcing its Social Media Code in South Africa. According to Nfluential, this comes after an influencer failed to disclose a trade exchange with a big automobile brand. Here, the team reflects on the ARB's decision to enforce the new code.

The decision is welcomed by both influencers and the rest of the industry as it will provide full transparency to audiences.

Marking posts with '#ad', '#advertisement', '#sponsored' or '#gifted' adds an additional layer of authenticity and integrity to influencer content, where followers will be able to distinguish between organic and branded content.

Audiences don’t like being lied to, and in the past, they would get some sort of signal from influencers that they were either paid for the posts or that they were sent products to post about. However, some influencers didn’t always do that.

The new ARB Social Media Code is quite specific about not misleading consumers. Pretending that content is organic, when it’s not, is inauthentic, which is a big 'no-no' as an influencer. This is seen in the same light as buying followers or engagement and can lead to reputational damage to these influencers and the brands associated with them. The fact is that influencers with integrity and credibility who work with brands and products that already align with their own brands aren’t worried about marking their posts.

Their audiences already like their content and are interested in products that can add value to their interests and, therefore, won’t affect their engagement rates.

It’s important to note that not all the responsibility rests on influencers’ shoulders. According to the Code, brands must be clear of their expectations to influencers and ensure that they give them correct and clear information — and be satisfied that they understand it in order to avoid misleading consumers in their social media posts.

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