Instagram has a message for social media Influencers: the Wild West is coming to an end. The popular photo-sharing platform is rolling out a new tool that will make it easier to tag and track paid commercial content. The tool offers a potential replacement for the much loathed “#ad” disclosure, but it also signals a coming crackdown on Influencer posts. Many brands today consider “Influencers” (i.e., celebrities, athletes, models, or other social media users with large followings) to be essential to any advertising campaign. But the use of Influencers raises important legal considerations. Most notably, if an advertiser gives an Influencer something of value in exchange for their endorsement, then the Influencer’s post must be marked as commercial content. These disclosures are required by the Federal Trade Commission, but despite the FTC’s aggressive enforcement, a recent study estimated that 93 percent of Influencers do not include the required disclosures in their Instagram posts.
Now, Instagram is stepping up to help the FTC increase compliance with the disclosure requirement. Instagram’s new tool allows Influencers and brands to tag their paid posts with “Paid partnerships” and the name of the advertiser.
According to Instagram, the tool will help Influencers more clearly communicate to their followers when they are working in partnership with a business. The tool will also give advertisers a way to track and monitor Influencer posts.
For now, the “Paid partnerships” tool is voluntary, but maybe not for long. When it rolled out the tool, Instagram also said it will be rolling out an official policy and enforcement practices in the months ahead.