Instagram is the fastest growing social app at the moment, and as the platform expands, so too does the list of marketers and advertisers who are looking to tap into that audience to generate exposure.
One of the easiest, and most effective, ways to do this on Instagram is through influencer marketing - you may not have thousands of followers yourself or for your business, but plenty of users do, and a lot of them are willing to partner with businesses to help promote their products and services on the platform. Given the visual focus of Instagram, it's perfectly suited to this type of cross-promotion, though the growth of influencer content, and the disclosure of such partnerships, has, at times, been problematic.
This may be best exemplified by Kardashian-affiliated Scott Disick's cut and paste fail on a sponsored post for Bootea.
And while the conflict was very obvious here, there are many other cases where influencers are promoting products in violation of FTC guidelines around such endorsements, which stipulate that partnerships of this kind need to be communicated and made clear to the audience. But these are not 'rules' as such, and because influencers can also be in different regions, under different regulations, the requirements get very cloudy.
But Instagram's looking to improve their systems on this front, with a new process in testing that would enable brands to tag partner businesses in their posts.
The details on exactly how the new process might work are fairly limited at this time - Mashable sought comment from Instagram but they declined, while the actual button itself, for those who have it, doesn't work at this stage, so we can't see how the on-post listings might occur once they're put in place.
But still, it's clear that Instagram is at least looking at ways to address concerns about brand endorsements, and there are various ways they could use such a tool to increase transparency - both to the audience viewing the content, and to brands looking to partner with influencers.
For the audience, Instagram could put a new rule in place which could enable them to take down undisclosed ads that violate their disclosure terms. Instagram wouldn't necessarily need to seek out and detect violators themselves (which would add workload on their end), but it could give them an immediate response tool in the case of user complaints.
That process would likely be enough of a scare to bring a lot of advertisers into line with the process, which would effectively reduce issues around undisclosed partnerships.
They could also use this tagging process in a similar way to how Facebook does when you tag a brand Page in a post - Facebook uses your tags in the post to increase the likelihood of your content being shown to a cross-section of people who are interested in both your Page and the Page you've tagged. Based on this, post reach can be increased as the content will likely be of more relevance to that audience subset - they could also use this as a motivating factor to get brands to use the tagging function, again without having to police it themselves.
Facebook introduced a similar system on their main platform last year which enables verified Pages to share branded content on Facebook by tagging partner brand Pages in their posts. The posts are then published with the partner business listed in the main heading (in this example "...with Jasper's Market").
This also provides increased transparency for the sponsor, as both the originator and the tagged page can view post metrics, and even turn that post into a paid ad if they want.
In this sense, the move may actually be more about simplifying and encouraging increased ad spend through these types of deals, as opposed to enforcing ad policies - but either way, the opportunities are there on both fronts.
As noted, there are no definitive details of when, or even if, Instagram is looking to roll this tool out more widely at this stage, but it's worth keeping tabs on, especially for brands involved in Instagram influencer marketing strategies.
The added process could provide both a new level of transparency and simplified co-operation.