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Instagram Announces Influencer Crackdown

UK Watchdog Prompts Instagram To Act On Promo Non-Disclosure 

Instagram has announced an influencer crackdown.

The social media giant is going to do more to catch those who fail to disclose when they’re being paid to promote posts. Leaving behind its old hands-off approach and are moving to be more proactive in the space.

This news comes as the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published research that found the majority of influencers weren’t honest with their audience. In the UK, as with many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, influencers have to tag branded content with #ad or #sponsored.

Regulations state that these labels need to be prominent enough to be easily noticed and thus placing them below the fold or in areas where users need to find them isn’t good enough.

However, research has found that up to 75% of influencers hide or fail to disclose that they are being paid. Often either neglecting to include any information, burying it below the fold or in a sea of hashtags.

Previously, this was a problem that Instagram left up to various market regulators, who couldn’t really be bothered to tackle the lack of transparency on the platform. But now that’s changing…

Instagram Is Watching You

Instagram has now said they will do more to catch people who weren’t disclosing when they’ve been paid to post. Instagram will also inform businesses when the people they’ve paid to promote their brand weren’t adequately disclosing this fact.

Non-disclosure is a pretty big problem across the influencer spectrum, and these new moves should help to force them into line.

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, via Twitter.

“We announced some important steps to make sure people know when creators are getting paid for their posts. Thank you to the CMA for working with us on this.”

To make it more difficult for influencers to avoid their duties, Instagram is mooting two changes:

  • There’ll be a new prompt which will require influence to confirm whether they’ve received incentives to post before they hit the publish button.
  • Instagram is working on new algorithms to find potential advertising content and would then alert the relevant parties and inform them about the rules regarding paid partnerships.

Haven’t We Seen This Before?

Three years ago Instagram made changes to allow influencers to tag business partners in their posts to bring more clarity to their timelines.

In reality, making all users in all regions use the partner tag as a matter of policy would help to nip the problem of non-disclosure in the bud and that’s where Instagram could be heading in the future.

Brands and marketers would be wise to get on the disclosure bandwagon proactively if they are not already. Instagram will soon begin tightening the net, while regulators are starting to bare their teeth.

What Does Instagram Already Say?

The existing Instagram branded content policy defines branded content as ‘content that features or is influenced by a business partner for an exchange of value’.

Explicitly stating that ‘our policies require creators and publishers to tag business partners in their branded content posts when there’s an exchange of value between a creator or publisher and a business partner.’

While disclosure is advised in the majority of markets, fines and penalties vary significantly from one to another.

Theoretically, Australian influencers could be fined $500,000 for each misleading post, but, as yet, nobody in Australia has been penalised for breaking these rules – according to The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Things have started to toughen up. In 2017 the Australian Association of National Advertisers brought out a new set of rules and regulations regarding sponsored content, while in July 2020 the Australian Influencer Marketing Council published a code of practice for influencers.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, things look to be heading down a similar, but different, route.

NZ’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently upheld four complaints against influencer Simone Anderson, who failed to disclose four paid posts to her followers and that her use of #gifted wasn’t enough information.

The ASA’s decision has been called “precedent setting” and the organisation is currently working on new guidelines for best practice and how influencers should identify their commercial relationships.

Sommer Kapitan, Auckland University of Technology, Senior Marketing Lecturer

“This means that influencers in New Zealand now always need to declare and disclose when there’s a commercial partnership.”

There are some concerns over how these changes will impact what an audience thinks of their favourite influencer, but if they’re smart and transparent, it could help boost authenticity.

Either way, eventually the discussion may well become redundant if Instagram bakes into policy. 

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