- Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing application with more than 700 million monthly active users, is taking steps to more clearly identify when user posts are sponsored by marketers. Posts and Instagram Stories from celebrities, social influencers and publishers will be marked with a "paid partnership" tag when a brand confirms the sponsorship, according to a blog post by the company.
- By using the tag, the advertiser and publisher will be able to track how branded posts and stories are performing. Creators will continue to see metrics in their Instagram Insights dashboard, while sponsors will see shared reach and engagement metrics in their Facebook Page Insights.
- Instagram is testing the feature now with a few businesses and celebrities and will establish an official policy and enforcement for creators to follow.
Influencer marketing is gaining favor with brands looking for authentic voices to help them connect with younger consumers. However, as the space grows, there are few standards or best practices in place, making it challenging for marketers.
Instagram's efforts to provide users with a more transparent view of how marketers influence its content follows months of criticism from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The agency sent warning letters to dozens of Instagram influencers this year that said disclosure practices weren’t clear enough about how sponsors affected the endorsement of a product or service. The letters marked the first time that FTC staff directly reached out to social media influencers about disclosure responsibilities.
The news could pave the way for sponsored content's role on Instagram to evolve and for the platform throw its weight around more in the space.
“What will be interesting to see here is how involved Instagram’s role will become in brand-influencer partnerships," Seen CEO and Founder Brian Zuercher said in comments emailed to Mobile Marketer. "Will creators become another ad unit within the Facebook ad platform? Will Instagram begin to broker partnerships between influencers and brands? If so, there may be an influencer marketing agency acquisition in Instagram’s future."
Facebook, who owns Instagram, has ad disclosures on its main social network that are similar to the ones currently being tested. Charles Porch, head of global creative programs at Instagram, told Bloomberg News that the photo-sharing app's test is intended to evaluate the response from the app’s community of users before rolling out to a wider group of businesses and influencers.
The news comes as Instagram's role in marketing continues to grow, forcing marketers to seek out employees who are experienced with creating programs for the platform.