“Anything goes apparently in this wild, wild West world of advertising and promotion. Should some limits be established for the public good?” (Advertisers: Don’t Gush Or Cloud, The Straits Times Editorial).
As industry players “proactively craft guidelines on appropriate conduct when engaging social media influencers” (ST, Apr. 2), and the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) is still investigating whether regulation concerning competition, consumer protection, and advertising practices were breached by telco Singtel and social media agency Gushcloud, advertisers and consumers should strengthen their comprehension of how the Internet works. The recent controversies have also encouraged more to be sceptical of online content.
Regardless of IDA’s decision or any legislative changes the temptation to test legal boundaries will persist for social media agencies and their influencers, and in this vein the companies who engage these services should keep a proactive eye on their return on marketing investment. Advertisements in the mainstream media may be costly in Singapore, but campaigns on the Internet will count for little if the companies are taken for a ride.
These agencies for instance peddle page views of blogs or follower counts on social media channels, yet rarely mention that they are no guarantees. Fake accounts or fabricated numbers notwithstanding – which could be verified respectively through online tools or demands for more rigorous evidence, such as screenshots of updated analytics – one should request for more relevant information. Knowing the difference between cost per mille or impression (CPM), cost per click (CPC), and cost per action or engagement (CPA) will allow for better decisions to be made, since the aforementioned figures do not provide a complete picture.
The brouhaha involving Singtel and Gushcloud centred on an unethical brief, though the tiered incentives instead of a lump-sum compensation were properly thought out.
Other strategies can be adopted to bridge existing information asymmetries: tracking links to verify the numbers furnished by the digital agency or influencer, comparing packages offered by different organisations, and in the first place ascertaining the right demographics for the product or service. And in the long run advertisers could even craft their own online campaigns organically, where the risk of misinformation or disinformation is lower, with the same benefits of lower costs and greater convenience on the Internet.