For a long time in Canada, Influencer Marketing had the perception of being the wild west. Well no longer!

Bloggers, vloggers, Instagram superstars and beyond, if you are being paid in either product or cash for your posts by a brand, you might be breaking Canadian law.

Not only that, but you could be putting brands at serious risk. Here’s how this works – Canadian advertising law has a provision that covers something called Astroturfing, or, when a brand pays someone for a review that otherwise would not have been written or it could have been written but with a less favourable outlook. If you are getting something in return for your review, it is Astroturfing.

The fines can be heavy

The Canadian government is slowly cracking down on this. In May, Bell Canada received a $1.25 million fine for encouraging its own employees to write reviews for the brand’s digital applications without declaring that they, in fact, worked for Bell.

We spoke with the Competition Bureau to learn more about this and the regulator shared an article from its Deceptive Marketing Practices Digest. The article outlines issues with what appear to be third-party testimonials when there is an undisclosed “material connection”, which could be financial or otherwise.

Why does this matter? Because influencers are trusted and even if the review is unbiased consumers value third-party testimonials almost as much as they value referrals from their family or friends.

For brands this means you need to do two things:

1. Tell your influencers or paid reviewers to disclose their relationship with you. If they don’t, you are putting yourself at risk.

2. Build stronger relationships with brand advocates and influencers. If you don’t have to pay someone to speak about your brand, and you aren’t giving them something in return, then it is an authentic relationship.

When you sponsor a few posts with an influencer you can build a long term relationship with, ensure they disclose those posts, and continue to grow your relationship with the content creator. Public disclosure applies to the specific post. If they happen to write about your brand in the future because they know you, like your brand and use your products, that’s a legitimately authentic post. Another way to do this is to advertise on a blogger’s site. Yes, buy a banner ad – or pay them to write for your site.  Again this is not Astroturfing.

The goal of influencer engagement is two-fold: one to build brand awareness and drive sales within a specific niche that an influencer caters to, and secondly, gather insights from the influencers themselves.

These content creators are experts at gather attention and engaging with an audience you find valuable. Pay them for their time, take their advice and turn those insights into action.

Learn more about conducting influencer marketing campaigns for  your brand, book a demo today and learn about Cision’s media database.

About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada

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