Audiences are becoming ever more savvy. Authenticity is increasingly being emphasised with consumers disengaging from sources that are perceived as breaking the good faith agreement, and are demanding to know when they are being sold to. So how does sponsored content on social media platforms fit into all this?
Previous methods for making audiences aware that the content they are receiving is sponsored or ‘paid-for’ have been practiced unevenly, and legal guidelines and regulations vary from one market to another. Various hashtags such as #ad and #partner have been used, but unscrupulous methods such as placing these hashtags below a ‘see more’ button further cloud the issue and undermine faith between all three parties: the sponsor, content producer, and the audience.
To combat these longstanding issues, Instagram is now beginning to introduce clarity with a ‘paid partnership’ tag in the headline of a sponsored post. Metrics being delivered directly to the brand is the not-inconsiderable incentive being offered for the adoption of this. While currently being tested with a small group of influencers, the paid partnership feature will soon be opened up to a much larger group. However, those wanting to use the feature must qualify for it and details of what is needed to achieve this have not yet been revealed.
One interpretation would be that an influencer must be of a certain size to qualify. This would play into the increasing emphasis on micro-influencers being more effective. Brands would not be bound by Instagram’s announcement of content being sponsored and micro-influencers, when used in numbers, create far greater engagement as their opinions are seen as more authentic and frank.
"HelloSociety, which was acquired last year by the New York Times, has found that “micro”-influencers, or accounts with 30,000 or fewer followers, are more beneficial for marketers to work with. According to the agency, 60 percent higher campaign engagement rates are driven by micro-influencers; those campaigns are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than influencers with larger followings, which makes them more cost effective; and micro-influencers drive 22.2 times more weekly conversations than the average consumer." via AdWeek
One thing that is clear is that with all options being voluntary the continuing onus is on brands to employ good practice and market ethically to retain engagement, driving sales and opportunities as well as a positive reputation.