The authenticity and credibility of Instagram influencers may be under threat, as the social network will soon roll out a ‘paid partnership’ tag which will clear up whether there’s been a commercial exchange for a post.
Influencers are the hip new breed of visual marketers – a kind of professional photographer – who earn a living by spruiking products and services to a large online following, primarily on Instagram.
Marketing managers are attracted to this non-traditional approach to advertising, as it comes across as a genuine testimony or endorsement from a credible individual. (Even though nothing could be farther from the truth!) And the millenials are engaged.
The influencers’ strongest selling point is they have an active audience who are, well, influenced by them. This is partly due to minimal or no disclosure that a post is an advertisement.
The new paid partnership tag will appear across the top of a post, similar to how Instagram ads appear, to let users know that it’s a sponsored post. However, it will be the influencer’s choice whether to opt-in or not!
The new feature comes after the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to 90 top-tier influencers, who had breached consumer regulation by burying details of commercial arrangements through unclear hashtags and at the end of captions.
The FTC highlighted that these influencers were using tags such as #sp #partner or #thanks[brand], which doesn’t adequately divulge the post is an advertisement.
Alternatively they were including the acceptable hashtags #ad and #sponsored, but not in view of the post.
‘Consumers viewing Instagram posts on mobile devices typically see only the first three lines of a longer post unless they click ‘more,’ which many may not do,’ said the FTC in April. ‘The… letters informed recipients that when making endorsements on Instagram, they should disclose any material connection above the ‘more’ button.’
MediaKix, an influencer ad agency, estimates over US$1 billion will be paid to influencers in 2017. This number is projected to double by 2019 at the current rate of growth. The agency also found that 93 percent of the top 50 Insta-celebs were violating FTC regulation.
Instagram may make life harder for influencers.
The social network, which is owned by Facebook, has been gradually commercialising the business model. First targeted ads were rolled out, then a Facebook-style algorithm was introduced.
Many influencers were left feeling vulnerable as Instagram changed to its own benefit, at a perceived expense of their business model.
Instagram essentially competes with influencers for advertisers on the platform. The platform may now work toward winning over a share of the US$1 billion going to influencers.
Related: Melbourne’s leading photography college, PSC, has recently announced a full-time smartphone photography and social media course.