This is What Disclosing Paid Partnerships Means for Brands

Times are changing and Instagram is ever evolving. No longer content being influencer marketing's clandestine accomplice, the social photo-sharing platform is taking its role from out of the shadows and volunteering as the middle man.

Here's what it means for brands.


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About a month ago, we discussed the FTC’s crackdown on ambiguously disclosed paid partnership content on Insta.

Let's face it, this rope-tightening was long overdue. Influencers and celebrities were pushing the boundaries as far as they possibly could, and paid vs. unpaid content was nearly impossible to decipher, even for the expert. Now imagine the layman — fuggetaboutit. The FTC’s job, in a nutshell, is to protect the layman and to ensure that business practices are not deceptive, as they kind of have been.

Instagram ads, whether they're delivered via social influence or by official placement, are to be made blatantly evident by law, period. The Federal Trade Commission has put its foot down and made it abundantly clear that undisclosed partnership posts and misleading sponsored ads weren’t going to fly anymore.

It was time to create some hard and fast rules for the practice; you follow the rules you won’t get in trouble, it’s that simple. We provided a fab cheat sheet for running influencer marketing ads on Instagram, but the platform went ahead and bested us with an even simpler, and quite frankly, necessary solution. The Facebook-owned app is making sure to tie any loose ends as it relates to potential disingenuousness directed at consumers through an Instagram photo.

There is now a partnership field hardwired into the design of a post. 😳

Exhibit A:

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HALLELUJAH.

This addition to the app's functionality is overwhelmingly positive, not just for top influencers, but for brands and their partners as well. It satisfies all parties and allows the ecosystem to remain intact without coming in and clearcutting it.

No more fearing those pesky fines: brands now have peace of mind for their paid ads on Instagram served by popular users. There is a place designed specifically for influencers and publishers (influencers in their own right) to disclose that a post is a paid partnership. The solution, which was developed independently from the FTC, checks all the boxes to satisfy the Federal Trade Commission Act. The issue had clearly been a bone of contention at Instagram. We're moving into a far more cut and dry era where there's no more hiding paid content. ✔️

How Will This Affect Brands?

As a brand growing your business on IG, it’s your responsibility to entertain, educate and engage, all the while providing users with a valuable, worthwhile experience. That’s why they engage with your content and in turn consume your products (hopefully). Instagram is arguably the most effective platform to advertise on, but adhering to its established norms is key.

There is something really intrusive, almost jarring, about reading #Ad or #Partner in a post's caption. Although that was the proposed protocol before this new solution was developed, it made some people feel kind of icky. There's no real flow to #Spon, it doesn't appear natural in a caption, and it hampers the whole vibe of the post. And real talk: vibes are everything. A separate field that exists specifically to indicate if the post is sponsored allows it to flow much more naturally. It reestablishes the good vibes. HT to the good people at Instagram. 🎩

This will also likely make influencers think twice about the partnerships they take on, as their authenticity will be put under a greater level of scrutiny. Power instagrammers who get paid to hawk merch for a living are going to need to deliberate much more about the brands with which to align their own image, as fans will grow increasingly aware of that user's perceived fondness for whatever they're pushing in a post. That is a gift for businesses conducting influencer marketing on Instagram, because the more organic your user pairings are, the more effective your efforts will be. Selecting the right people to work with will be more crucial than ever.

The Internet moves at the speed of light. Of all the social media platforms and their predecessors, Instagram is the roadrunner of channels. In other words, they don’t futz around. They are constantly analyzing what the market (or business) needs are to solve pending problems. This new subtle yet clear button leaves no room for interpretation, and is going to become über strategic for your future sponsorships.

This solution is about to give the whole partnership approach more legitimacy. #Ad made sponsored posts feel almost like a seedy backroom poker game. This new field legitimizes partner content, like you’re shooting craps at the Bellagio.

As exciting as this announcement is, it’s not time to abandon the best practices for sponsored posts just yet. The functionality is still in BETA testing and isn’t available to all users at the moment. But once the new Instagram update is released, it'll be time to go all in. 🃏


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