NOUN: Influencer. A person who has the power to influence many people, as through social media or traditional media. 

Before 2016, there was no definition for this term in the Oxford English Dictionary, and now it’s a word we can’t escape. New regulations mean that honesty and transparency is the only way for this industry to go forward. It may be good for the consumer, but what about those at the heart of the content? Lifestyle Blogger Aziza Makame tells me the after-effects of the new law. 

Credit: Aziza Makamé

Is your feed clogged up with advert-like posts that big-up random and questionable products that you wouldn’t normally touch, even with a 10ft barge pole? Detox tea that can shed 10 pounds from your body in one week… really? The world’s best protein powder that guarantees to give you abs of steel with minimal exercise… right, sounds totally legitimate and safe. Well, you’re not the only one. These days, every other social media post seems to be some sort of sponsored content. It’s hard to filter out the true and decent from the gimmicky fads. All thanks to the rise of Influencer culture. 

People with followers ranging from thousands to millions are considered Influencers. Their followers see the content, like the product, want the product, got the product. In true Ariana Grande fashion. But can we really trust bloggers? People can be gullible and automatically assume that a product is top-notch just because their favourite blogger is endorsing it. But is it all just a money-making scheme? Do these influencers really have a solid connection and belief in the products that they are effectively advertising? 

        via GIPHY

Well, in a bid to put a stop to all of the confusion and to stop the manipulation of followers, the Government decided to step in. In September 2018, a new document was released via the Competition and Markets Authority and the Advertising Standards Agency named Influencer Marketing Disclosure Guidelines. The aim of this was to provide complete transparency for social media users. What does this mean? It simply means that everyone will be able to recognise straight away if a post is sponsored, incentivised or has been gifted. Five months on and these new transparent platforms are full steam ahead. It’s no longer a battleground with followers throwing accusations around like ammunition. No lies or AD hashtags drowning in a sea of a hundred other jargon-ridden tags. What is life like now as a blogger in this stricter, monitored blogosphere?

Meet Aziza Makamé, a 20-something British-Moroccan fashion and lifestyle blogger based in London. She started her journey in 2017 and now has over 10 thousand followers on Instagram. She’s worked with big brands such as Thierry Mugler Fragrances, Adexe Watches and Sanctuary Spa. If you head over to her Instagram you’ll be greeted with an absolute rainbow fest and a feed full of carefully curated posts that radiate her hard work, talent and passion. At 10k followers, she’s one of the smaller ones. 

Aziza's sponsored post with Thierry Mugler Fragrances. Credit: Aziza Makamé

“I love sharing my style with people! It’s a lot of work though”. For Aziza, it’s not a full-time job at the moment, she already has a 9-5. The fact that her blog is bringing in about half of her monthly pay packet that her day job does, proves that this woman is a multitasking powerhouse. “It’s so worth it when I get girls messaging me about how I’m inspiring them … my Instagram is a journey and I want people to grow with me”.

“When the disclosure guidelines first came out, my initial thoughts were “what the hell!” I mean the documentary for Fyre Festival had just come out and the internet was going on an influencer witch hunt!”. If you haven’t seen the Fyre documentary on Netflix, you need to. It shows high-profile celebrities get paid absolutely extortionate amounts of money to post complete lies to promote a fabricated event that stole millions of pounds from its customers. Kendall Jenner is reported to have earned $250,000 for a single post. 

"In an ideal world, you'd disclose only things you'd been paid to promote"aziza makamé

First of all, Aziza admits she didn’t think much of the laws, just that it would be a more honest place for followers to enjoy content. Deeper down the line though, it became clear that the rules weren’t so straight forward. It wasn’t as simple as adding a hashtag or two to let everyone know the post is sponsored. “I’ve had to write longer posts and try to remember if the items I’m wearing have been gifted or [I’ve] been sponsored for. There’s an Olivia Burton watch I wear literally every day and I have to say that it was gifted, even if it’s on an Instagram story”. If a blogger has ever previously worked with a brand or still owns products gifted by a company, this has to be stated in any post that includes a product by the brand. Even if the current post isn’t anything to do with them. It all seems very long-winded and quite frankly annoying. “In an ideal world, you’d disclose only things you’d been paid to promote”.
Despite the annoying bits, overall Aziza thinks this step was good for the industry and says Influencers with a larger following shouldn’t be let off the hook. “There are blogs with bigger accounts and you feel a certain level of deception when you see that most of the posts and items they own are either gifted or paid to post.” 

Aziza has found that her followers hate Ads. “The laws have definitely had more of an effect on me as a smaller blogger, people hate AD posts. And hate seeing gifted. A lot more people unfollow.” Of course, they’re the main source of income for smaller bloggers like herself. If you choose this career, there’s no way of escaping them. However, when it’s celebrities that post an AD, they’re accepted. A lot of thanks goes to the Z-list celeb factory that is Love Island: the main culprit for the nation's sudden lust for charcoal whitening toothpaste (Thanks guys, all we have been left with is dull teeth and a stained toothbrush). 
The number of followers a person has should not equate to a level of trust, but it sadly happens. 

Deception at the hand of a celebrity of a more international scale happens within the Kardashian-Jenner clan. Collectively, they boast a staggering 518.4 million Instagram followers. They are in no shortage of money or attention, to say the least. Especially Kylie, the youngest of the bunch who became Forbes’ youngest self-made billionaire at the age of 21 (The term self-made is a whole different topic to be debated). 

Products that the Kardashians have endorsed on their pages include waist trainers, hair growth supplements and the oh-so-familiar weight loss tea. One particular product that Kim controversially promoted on her account last year was FlatTummyCo’s hunger-suppressing lollypop. It’s a product that isn’t reviewed by the FDA which means there’s absolutely no proof of its safety. Kim is a UK size 8, a waist that measures a mear 26 inches and a cosmetic surgeon most likely on speed dial. Does she look like someone that would go out and buy a pack of lolly’s that cost approximately £1 per portion? Plus the fact that she was likely paid more than the average UK yearly salary to take five minutes out of her day to post it. 

Kim K's controversial post that was removed shortly after
uploading due to international backlash. Credit: Kim Kardashian

For passionate content creators like Aziza, it’s hard not to dream of a simpler world. Thanks to the shady posts from celebrities of all fame levels, there will never be and should never be a world without some kind of influencer regulation. Aziza actually hopes that the future will bring more guidelines and stricter rules, along with more respect for content creators. “People think it’s as easy as taking a selfie with a product and that everything is free. Hopefully, this will make people realise we’re not actually gifted as much or paid to promote much.” She’s not afraid to throw some shade at big players either. “It may do the opposite. It might make people realise that it’s actually all paid for, all sponsored and all gifted. Trust for bigger bloggers may go down and for smaller bloggers trust and respect will hopefully increase!”. 

"Trust for bigger bloggers may go down and for smaller bloggers trust and respect will hopefully increase!"AZIZA MAKAMÉ

Some may argue that official laws have added to the negative, judgemental and money-grabbing persona that’s usually associated with influencers. All in all, the foundations of the law are in the right place. Though the big guys in the fancy London office that drew these up probably would have benefited by actually talking to a blogger or two to fully understand the industry. Let’s face it, it was probably a bunch of old guys in tweed suits that plucked these points out of thin air that have never owned an Instagram account and who still religiously reads broadsheets on the daily commute. 

Influencer marketing became the thing as people moved away from, traditional media consumption (TV and magazines… *cries*). It’s essentially an online form of peer to peer recommendation, influencers act like your friends. Good influencers will only recommend a product that they truly believe in and won’t take the money from any old dodgy brand. These relationships are solely built on trust. The Government guidelines were put in place to formalise that trust and ensure the followers' best interests are put at the absolute forefront of every post. It’s still early days. Let’s just hope the future of blogging and influencer marketing is as bright as Aziza’s Instagram account.

Follow Aziza on Instagram @azizamakame for regular, colourful fashion and lifestyle content!