Consumer watchdogs and the federal government have been cracking down on undisclosed “stealth” advertising on social media — particularly Instagram, where celebrities of all stripes have been caught shilling for products without disclosing they were compensated. In an effort to make it easier for these “influencers” to be more transparent about sponsored posts, Instagram has launched a new “paid partnership” label.
The new tagging system serves a double purpose: It makes the compensation clear right at the top of the post, rather than burying this disclosure in a mess of hashtags that no one will read. Second, the “Paid partnership” label allows the user to link directly to their advertiser benefactor; no more awkward URLs in the caption or “link in profile” messages.
According to Instagram, the tagging system is a win-win for the viewer as well as the influencer and their partner: It makes the nature of that relationship more transparent for the community, and when the tool is used, “both the creator and business partner will have access to Insights for that post, making it easier to share how followers are engaging with these posts.”
In April, the FTC announced it had sent out 90 letters to influencers — a word my computer’s spellcheck rightfully refuses to accept — and their corporate benefactors, asking them to kindly follow the dang rules on paid endorsements.
The agency addressed the possibility that certain Instagram posts might not adequately disclose the “material connection” between the advertiser and the influencer: As we’ve noted in the past, though the FTC’s rules require such connections to be “clear” and “conspicuous,” throwing the word “#ad” at the end of an otherwise crowded caption is likely neither clear nor conspicuous.
“Therefore, you should disclose any material connection above the ‘more’ button,” advised the letter. “In addition, where there are multiple tags, hashtags, or links, readers may just skip over them, especially where they appear at the end of a long post.”
This new labeling/tagging system would appear to address that issue — however, it all depends on whether or not these famous faces and reality whoevers actually use the thing.
Without mentioning the FTC’s efforts directly, Instagram writes that while partnerships between “community creators” and businesses are an important part of the social media experience, “a healthy community should be open and consistent about paid partnerships.”
There could be a crackdown on un-disclosed ads in the future, however, as Instagram says it’s working on a new policy for paid posts.
“In the coming months, we’ll also be launching an official policy and enforcement for creators to follow based off Facebook’s current practices,” Instagram writes.