Following a recent investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, Instagram has vowed to do more to protect consumers by ensuring that influencers disclose commercial relationships within their posts.
In the UK, and in many other nations, influencers are required to flag commercial arrangements by tagging their posts with #ad or #sponsored. But the CMA has found that many don't do this. That could see Instagram itself face legal action - and in order to avoid such, Instagram has vowed to increase its action on sponsored posts.
Instagram plans to tackle the issue on two fronts:
- First, Instagram's looking to add a new prompt which would require influencers to confirm whether they've received incentives to promote a product or service before they can publish their post
- Instagram's also developing new algorithms to detect potential advertising content. It would then look to alert the relevant business, informing them of the platform rules around such
This has been a long-standing concern - Instagram's been working to address issues around proper disclosure in influencer marketing for years. Back in 2017, the platform added an option to tag a business partner in your post, in order to provide more clarity around such.
But as noted, many users still fail to adhere to the rules - and even when people do actually add the relevant tags, most still fail to meet the specific regulatory requirements.
A recent study found that more than three quarters of influencer promotions on Instagram hide the #ad or #sponsored disclosure beyond the main caption, meaning that users need to expand the text for the disclosure to be seen. According to regulations, influencer marketing labels need to be prominent enough that consumers will easily notice them, and hiding them lower down may actually still be in violation of official rules, and could also come under scrutiny.
Really, all influencer/brand partnerships, in all regions, should be required to use the partner tag, and I suspect that's where Instagram will eventually move on this. But right now, the platform's only committing to rolling out increased disclosure tools over the next year, and it's not clear if the new measures will apply in all regions as yet.
But if you run influencer promotions, it may be worth tightening up your processes, and ensuring you're providing clarity on partnerships ahead of the new push. The details may be unclear, but we do know that change is coming, and the expectations around such are likely to be ramped up very soon.