Kim Kardashian’s Crypto Fail provides an expensive lesson for all Influencers

What you say, what you do and what you reveal when influencing others on social media has come under intense scrutiny once again. This time, it has a crypto angle that is enlightening for those of us watching from the whiter seats.

Kim Kardashian has been fined $1.2 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly failing to disclose the fact that she was paid to mention EthereumMax in social media posts. This sent shockwaves through the world of social media influencers, down to the jewelry they wear, the products they claim to love, and even their cryptocurrency of choice.

However, before we dive into the implications, let’s set the scene.

Kardashian has 331 million followers on Instagram and (let’s be honest here) is mostly famous for being famous. He knows how to make headlines, though.

She usually posts about fashion. At the very least, it doesn’t make sense for him to suddenly become interested in crypto, let alone a specific currency. Her Instagram story from June asks if anyone is into crypto and then proceeds to namecheck EthereumMax. She included the hashtag #ad, but that’s not exactly radical transparency about her newfound interest or whether she was paid.

In her Instagram story, she was “sharing what my friends just told me,” which, if nothing else, sounds like she overheard it at the bar and wasn’t part of a contractual obligation. I don’t mind influencers getting paid to promote products, as long as they make it abundantly clear. The SEC is apparently trying to make an example of her.

The real lesson here for social media influencers isn’t whether they should disclose something or expect fines more often. This should be pretty obvious by now, especially with cases dating back to the “mom blogger” pay-for-play scandal and the FTC’s recently released disclosure guidelines from 2019.

The real debate is whether it makes sense for an influencer to post products like these in the first place and whether it will lead to suspicion. Should we be more concerned? I do not think. Authentic influence doesn’t mean you have to worry about fines when you’re honest. However, if you are an influencer, I have some advice.

First, don’t panic. It’s okay to mention things you like without worrying about being tracked down or fined, as long as they are not paid for reporting. Your followers will know anyway. To keep people interested and paying attention, authenticity wins. Go with your gut. If you’re just talking about a favorite gadget or hair product because actually use itdon’t worry if your followers (or the SEC) question your motives.

I will use myself as an example. I’m not a social media influencer, but if I suddenly switched gears and started posting about fashion or European delicacies, people would know something was up. It wouldn’t make sense to my followers. I wouldn’t “influence” them anyway. I would lose fans. On the other hand, if I mentioned some fishing lures or a favorite coffee shop, it would fit right into my feed.

My rule of thumb is, if you as an influencer suddenly start posting about something off-brand and getting paid to mention the product, make it as clear as possible (meaning, use more than one hashtag). Don’t risk control.

Now, this is the gray area because I’m sure the SEC wants people to be more transparent. If it’s a paid ad and doesn’t really fit your normal posting routine, it’s better to disclose it because everyone will wonder anyway. Why draw attention to yourself with off-brand posts?

However, if you stick to what you know and love, there’s no reason for your authenticity and honesty to ever be in doubt. And, of course, keep a paper trail. For an influencer, keep strict records of any paid promotions you do and how you disclosed them, be clear about paid reporting and be ready to show the paperwork.

For everything else, be true to yourself and don’t worry. Honest influence is still legal.

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