Instagram are Putting Some Distance Between Paid Content and Regular Content

Instagram are trying to widen the gap between normal content and paid-for promotional content - the kind that gets put out by brands and celebrities. Previously, the only thing that really differentiated the two was the nature of the content (which admittedly rarely makes it hard to tell them apart), but now paid-for posts will feature a 'Paid partnership with...' label.

While it might seem like a logical addition, Instagram aren't necessarily doing it because they want to. In actual fact, they've been in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission. A recent report revealed that 93% of the posts made by Instagram's 50 most popular users didn't adhere to FTC guidelines. The main stipulation is that all paid-for content must clearly indicate that it's sponsored, but many influencers sidestep this, as it can be detrimental to a post's popularity. The less corporate content seems, the better it stands to do.

In particular, the FTC warned users that the #sp hashtag was nowhere near clear enough an indication of sponsored content, but that's kind of the point. Users don't search for hashtags which reference sponsorships, but terms like #sp and #partner have a kind of 'wolf in sheep's clothing' effect. Instagram have clearly buckled to pressure to rectify this, which is why they've brought this new label in.

The label appears above the content, which means it's one of the first things users will see when viewing the post. The issue is that Instagram cannot directly enforce the user of the label - it's still very much an 'opt-in' feature, so at present there's nothing to stop users from simply ignoring it and carrying on as they have always done. That being said, Instagram are also opening up metrics on sponsored posts to users and brands, so it will be clear to everyone if sponsorship labelling is really detrimental to a post's performance.

The creators of the posts will be able to view metrics from inside the Instagram app, which creates an incentive to use the label which will, in theory, eclipse the desire to sidestep it. In theory, there's nothing wrong with brands stating their intentions, but advertising and dishonestly have been bedfellows since the dawn of time, to the point where misleading consumers is just force of habit. By offering brands the chance to track their metrics more easily, Instagram have introduced a canny trade-off for better transparency.

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