Instagram is a popular place for brands to pay celebrities and publishers to piggyback their organic audiences. But if those celebrities and publishers don’t disclose when a post is paid for — and many do not — they and the brands risk running afoul of the Federal Trade Commission’s disclosure guidelines. While some opt to add #ad or #spon to their posts’ captions, there hasn’t been a set standard to tell viewers when something is sponsored — until now.
A little over a year after Facebook introduced a sponsored-content labeling system, Instagram is rolling out a way for celebrities and publishers to label their organic posts, including Stories, as sponsored.
Sometime “in the coming weeks,” when a person or publication posts a photo, video or Story to Instagram that was paid for by a brand, they will be able to flag it as sponsored content, and the post or Story will feature a “Paid partnership with [brand name]” label when people view it. Instagram will not be doing the tagging for creators, according to an Instagram spokesperson. It’s unclear what types of Instagram accounts will be able to do this tagging and when. The spokesperson said that Instagram is trying it out with “a limited set of partners.”
In case keeping clear of regulators isn’t reason enough to use the tagging system, Instagram is dangling another incentive. Anyone who tags a sponsor in a post will be able to get a better look at how that post is doing, which could help them prove the post was worth the brand’s money. And brands will be able to view for themselves the reach and engagement stats for tagged Instagram posts through their Facebook Pages’ Insights tab.
For photos and videos appearing in people’s main feeds, creators will be able to see reach and engagement stats like the number of likes and comments a post receives, and for Stories posts, creators will see how many people were shown the Story post, how many times people tapped forward or backward from a post, how many times people exited the Story after seeing a post and the number of times people replied to the post. Those stats are already available to people and publishers with business accounts on Instagram, but only to business accounts.
Sometime later this year, Instagram plans to roll out an official policy for sponsored posts and what it will do to enforce that policy. The company said that policy will be based on the one Facebook introduced last year.