Instagram is creating a standardized format that should make it clearer to everyone when a post has been paid for by an advertiser. These aren’t for ads that businesses buy directly from Instagram, but rather for influencer marketing, where brands pay celebrities and other users with a significant online following to promote their products.
It’s an area that every big tech and media company seems interested in, but it’s also creating questions around disclosure and transparency. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission recently sent letters to more than 90 influencersreminding them that they need to “clearly and conspicuously” disclose when their posts are sponsored.
That means they shouldn’t hide the disclosure under the “more” button, or use ambiguous language like “Thanks, [Sponsor Name Here]!” Instagram’s Creative Programs Director Charles Porch told me that most influencers and advertisers are looking for a clear, straightforward way to make these disclosures.
“People are building amazing businesses on Instagram all over the world, at all sorts of scale,” Porch said. And those users are “looking for ways to be super transparent with their followers when they have a partnership.” So with this new feature, influencers tag a brand as the sponsor for their post, which accomplishes two things. First, it means the post will include a “Paid partnership with” notification at the very top. (These disclosures can also show up on Instagram Stories.)
It’s not exactly a giant banner warning users that the post is an ad, but the language is straightforward and the placement will make it hard to miss. At the same time, it means the advertiser will automatically get access to the same data as the influencer around the post’s reach and engagement — and it’ll show up in the same Facebook dashboard as the rest of their advertising data.
Instagram is currently testing this new tool out with select users, including BuzzFeed and Aimee Song. But will the company eventually require everyone to use with these tags when they run sponsored content? “Right now, we’re still in phase one,” Porch said. “The goal is to one, educate people and two, get a ton of feedback … There will be enforcement, but first we want to get feedback on how everyone reacts.”