From new cars to stunning beach resorts, Instagram has provided a platform for influencers to show off their lives – and, thanks to their sponsors, earn a living. But since its launch in 2010, knowing exactly when a brand has paid for a post has been tricky. Now, to increase transparency, Instagram is providing influencers with a new tool to disclose when that filtered photo is in fact, a paid-for post.
In the ‘coming weeks’, the app will let a select group of influencers tag a brand within their posts. If the brand confirms the relationship, the post will be marked as an ad. This means users will start to see a new ‘paid partnership with’ subhead on posts and stories that are sponsored.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, uses a similar system to separate sponsored posts from genuine lifestyle photos. That’s good news for brands. It will give them access to a wealth of data about the popularity of a post and prevent them from breaching the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines. Engagement stats for tagged Instagram posts will appear in their Facebook Pages’ Insights tab, along with the rest of their advertising data.
Influencers will also have access to these analytics, letting them know exactly how many followers are engaging with sponsored content. For photos and videos, engagement stats will include the number of likes and comments a post receives.
For Stories posts, creators will see how many people were shown the Story post and how many times people pressed forward or backward from a post. They will also see how many times people exited the Story after seeing a post and the number of times people replied.
‘The relationships people form on Instagram drive our community and make it so unique,’ Instagram said in a blog post.
‘Partnerships between community creators and businesses are an important part of the Instagram experience, and a healthy community should be open and consistent about paid partnerships.’
As well as giving new data analytics tools to brands and influencers, the move also helps protect Instagram’s reputation as a platform.
The alternative is the catastrophe of the Fyre Festival, where around 400 Instagram influencers supported the ‘luxury’ music event. The ensuing disaster left those influncers red-faced, after it emerged the reality was sinking tents, unsanitary conditions and overcrowding. By making it clear when a post is sponsored, Instagram and influencers areprotecting itself as a platform when a Fyre-type incident takes place again.
Instagram announcement was made in the same week that a report found 93 per cent of paid content posts on social media are not marked in line with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines. The FTC has said it will start cracking down on paid-for influencer posts that are not labeled.
‘We’ve been interested in deceptive endorsements for decades, and this is a new way in which they are appearing,’ Michael Ostheimer, a deputy in the FTC’s Ad Practices Division, told Bloomberg.
‘We believe consumers put stock in endorsements and we want to make sure they are not being deceived.’
Two months ago, the FTC sent out letters to dozens of influencers warning them that their paid posts on the platform didn’t include sufficient disclosures.
The letter said disclosures like ‘#sp,’ ‘Thanks [Brand],’ or ‘#partner’ in a post ‘are not sufficiently clear’ to indicate that the post is sponsored. It also pointed out that Instagram posts display only the first three lines of text on mobile devices. This means users may not necessarily see disclosures that are made using hashtags, even if they are included. The latest test could help address FTC’s concerns as well as provide more data for brands and influencers.
Currently, the tool is only available for selective users who have an Instagram business profile. If the initial trial is success, Instagram may roll it out globally.