Instagram is adding a new label to better differentiate paid-for posts from regular content. The label — which features the words “Paid partnership with…” — will appear above sponsored posts and stories created by celebrities and other users promoting brands or products over the coming weeks.
The addition comes in the same week a report claimed that 93 percent of paid-for posts made by Instagram’s most popular users were not labeled according to FTC guidelines. The report, put together by marketing firm Mediakix, looked at Instagram’s 50 most-followed accounts and found that 61 percent of sponsored posts were related to the fashion industry. BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopoulos broke this data down further, splitting the posts into four categories: posts that failed to disclose a long-term sponsorship (49 percent of posts), the receipt of an expensive one-off gift (16 percent), a cheaper gift (12 percent), or single pay-to-post ads (12 percent).
FTC guidelines state that sponsored posts must have clear reference to the fact they serve as paid advertising, either with words like “sponsored by” in the accompanying text, or by using hashtags like #ad. Prolific Instagram users have previously found ways around this system, however, using vaguer hashtags like #sp or #partner.
The FTC sent notices to 90 Instagram users in April this year, to remind them to clearly disclose any “material connection” they may have with a brand or company. Some of the letters referenced these vague hashtags, saying that consumers aren’t like to understand inclusions like “#sp” as indication of a paid sponsorship. They also noted that consumers are likely to skip over sponsorship hashtags when they were included in a group of more standard tags.
By putting the notification above the image or story, rather than in the description below, Instagram’s new system should make it clearer for followers to pick out paid-for posts. Of course, users will still have to choose to include the label when making their posts — potentially leaving the door open for more surreptitious advertising — but the service has a solid reason for businesses to want to clearly state their connections. Metrics for posts with the “Paid partnership with…” label will be available to both user and advertiser, allowing them to see just how wide a reach they get for their marketing money through Instagram’s Insights app.