Transparency in Social Advertising and the FTC Laws
Instagram has quickly become the social media platform for influencers to jumpstart their careers, as the app enables them live out the lives/jobs of their dreams, thanks to branded and sponsored content. Recent conversation in the influencer marketing space surrounds transparency in social media advertising, as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is beginning to penalize influencers when it comes to adhering to mandatory disclosure laws pertaining to whether a post is sponsored or not.
The FTC has established concern that simply tagging a post with “#sp,” or “#partner” is not easy enough for consumers to understand that a post is sponsored, and putting a tag beyond the third line of text (where it would be hidden unless someone clicks the more button), just doesn’t cut it to disclose to your audience. In order to legally adhere to the FTC’s mandatory disclosure laws the following terms of “#ad”, “#promotional” or “#sponsored” must be included in the original copy of social posts. The FTC has gone as far to send warning letters to those who violate its guidelines, which include labeling sponsored posts as “Thanks (brand)”, “#partner”, “#sp”, or “#PaidAd”.
Instagram recently announced it would be taking matters into its own hands with a new feature. Users will be able to easily disclose when one of their posts is actually an ad. The “paid partnership with [enter brand name here]” post format is designed for influencers who want to advertise products on their page, allowing them to easily disclose to their audience that the post is sponsored.
This will bring the platform some much-needed transarency, making it easier for users to understand what content is paid for by sponsors. The feature is set to roll out to a “small number” of creators in the beginning, eventually rolling out to all users. Instagram also added reach and engagement analytics that are shared with the selected brand when the tool is used making it easy to analyze their return on investment. Brands can see these numbers on their Facebook Page manager, and creators can see it in the Instagram app. It will be very interesting to see how Instagram’s audience reacts when this feature is rolled out to all influencers.
With the amount of influencers who fail to disclose, Instagram’s choice to include a paid promotional feature is very wise, because as the FTC becomes more serious about disclosure laws it will be very important to make those distinctions so audiences are aware what posts are sponsored. Lying to your audience is not the way to gain trust, and disclosure is always the best way to go. Being transparent is not only the legal thing to do, but creating a relationship that is based on truth and authenticity is absolutely important for brands and creators looking to succeed in social media.