Influencer marketing hit an all-time high in September 2016, as per Google Trends. Captiv8, an influencer marketing firm, estimated that brands spend $255 million a month just on Instagram (in the USA)! However, in parallel to this growth, there have also been steps taken from governing bodies in the USA to regulate sponsored material by influencers. For example, last year the Federal Trade Commission sued Warner Bros for paying influencers to post positive reviews of a video game. Instagram influencers are now encouraged to disclose branded content through hashtags. While this hasn’t quite caught on in the region, I do believe it’s only a matter of time.
In fact, Instagram recently announced they were releasing a “Paid partnership with” tag to be used by influencers to indicate what brand they are working with to promote content. This tag will be applicable to both organic content posts and Instagram Stories. Quite frankly, this – as a social media marketer – is music to my ears and there are a few reasons why I’m looking forward to this.
First, policies of labeling branded content on Instagram (and all other platforms) enables trust:
- It’s a worldwide standard that holds advertisers accountable to maintaining transparency with their consumers
- It’s a similar theme to what native advertising went through: consumers don’t want to be deceived by paid endorsements. Should consumers have an experience where they feel they were misled, it hurts both the influencer and brand. This policy, protects advertisers more than they realize
Second, access to insights is a game changer:
- Agencies in the region have always struggled with getting any kind of information from Instagram influencers. This makes it difficult to understand who their audience base is and if they are right for a specific brand
- The roll-out of insights for the paid partnership tag will allow advertisers to measure the impact of influencer content. It also will allow advertisers to understand the influencer audience base and their reach. Once Instagram announces the breath of insights that will be available, the implications will be much clearer
- Agencies will finally be able to challenge influencers on their costs.
Third, I believe that it will push influencers to be selective:
- Agencies already have experienced public complaints about seeing the same influencers working with half of the big advertisers in the region
- Too many paid partnerships will dilute their credibility as an “influencer”, and this will make them more selective about brands they work with to maintain a certain image
Finally, there’s the importance of transparency and authenticity, which go hand-in-hand:
- Openly labeling branded content will be perceived as an authentic effort on the creator’s part to communicate their partnerships, giving the brands featured more credibility
- It may also create the perception that influencers are working with brands that they, themselves, are fans of
In short, I believe the adoption of this new Instagram policy, coupled with the above, will begin to change the way we plan partnerships on the platform and, more importantly, who we plan partnerships with. The numbers are yet to be revealed, but my bet is that this is a positive change for both advertisers and influencers.