While there’s a great deal of responsibility for the brands and content creators to make sure they’re following the rules (not least because they’ll be the ones paying the chunky fines) regulators like the FTC feel that social media platforms should be doing much more to promote transparent marketing in their feeds.
The reality is that, with more than 80% of users following a business on Instagram, brands are integral to that platform’s experience.
But, with the FTC becoming increasingly forceful about ‘clear and conspicuous’ disclosure of any paid activity, Instagram has recognised the need to make things simpler for brands and content creators – and more obvious for the platform’s users.
In other words, the days of being able to bury the required #sp or #ad way down a list of hashtags (something that particularly ticks off the FTC) are probably coming to an end with new, simpler and far more effective ways to signal a paid partnership.
Instagram (and Facebook) have a solution. They’ve recently tested a tool designed to ‘bring transparency and consistency to branded content’ on their platform.
And, at this news, media regulators across the world – and audiences fed up of the sneakiness of the more unscrupulous influencer marketing practices – should be giving a tiny cheer.
The new tool allows for content creators to clearly show when there is a commercial relationship behind a particular post. Best of all, rather than way down the caption, this information is incorporated into the header – displaying the words ‘paid partnership with…’ directly underneath the poster’s Instagram handle.
Instagram says the global rollout of this tool is imminent and, with added features that allow the partner brands to access live data for a collaborative post and approve the posts in which they’re tagged, it will add far richer benefits to an influencer marketing relationship than simple transparency.
Like all (ok, most) new features from Instagram and Facebook, the tool is preposterously easy to use.
In a nutshell, once content creator and brand have agreed on their post, the content creator then adds it to their feed or stories.
Then, with a quick click on ‘advanced settings’, you’ll be given the option to ‘tag a business partner’ (fancy). Once the tag is in place the brand will receive a notification and will instantly have access to that post’s live insights.
Instagram has even developed a feature that allows brands to opt-out of a collaborative post after it has gone live (although this seems like quite a drastic option).
Weirdly, it’s that simple to solve a problem that has had the world’s advertising watchdogs gnashing their teeth ever since the early days of influencer marketing on social media.
And, for brands and content creators who value the authenticity, genuine connections and hard-earned trust of proper influencer marketing, this is another very important step in safeguarding the values that make this kind of communication so different and so effective.