The FTC Speaks, Instagram Listens: A New Disclosure Tool for Social Media Influencers

June 19, 2017

By Courtney A. H. Thompson

Camera IconInstagram will soon launch a new tool to help its internet celebrities, or “influencers,” disclose when they are being paid by sponsors. The social media app will enable individual users to expressly identify a sponsor within their posts. When the sponsor verifies the relationship, the post will get a standardized “Paid partnership with [Sponsor Name]” subheader at the top and will tag the sponsor’s Instagram account. The purpose is for this disclosure to be straightforward and hard to miss.

For now, this feature is being tested with a select group of users, including BuzzFeed and Aimee Song, and will be more widely available in coming months. “Our goal is to get a ton of feedback,” said Charles Porch, Head of Global Creative Programs at Instagram. “It’s all about transparency within the community.”

This feature has materialized as a result of the angst from the 90-plus letters that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent to notable influencers earlier this year, as further described in Steve Helland’s article “Agencies: Are Influencers Getting You Into Hot Water with the FTC?” The FTC warned such influencers that their disclosure practices (which often consisted of hashtags like #sp or ambiguous language like “Thanks, [Sponsor Name]!” opposed more explicit variations like #ad or #sponsored) were not clear enough to meet the applicable standards.

While Instagram did not consult with the FTC to determine whether the feature will satisfy the government’s disclosure guidelines, sponsors are expected to embrace the tool and require their influencers to use it because it will grant the sponsor access to additional data about the post that will show up in the same Facebook dashboard as the rest of their advertising data.

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