In the age of social media and fame through followers, transparency can and will be monetized. Instagram has served as a platform by which the bank accounts of the young and beautiful have been nourished generously via sly sponsorship. Most of the Instagram posts made by our favorite models or celebrities are (believe it or not!) sponsored content. Sometimes the celebrity will include a link or reference like the Kardashians' famous “SugarbearHair Vitamins” gummies stunt. However, most of the time these sponsored posts are veiled as authentic representations of that person’s daily life occurrences.
Depending on the user’s sphere of influence, measured in number of followers, a sponsored post can pay quite handsomely. For instance, blogger and stylist Danielle Bernstein who runs the 1.7 million followed Instagram page, @weworewhat, shared that a single sponsored post can bring her anywhere between $5,000 to $15,000. No wonder so many people are making a living off their Instagram pages and doing so in a duplicitous way.
Duplicitous yes, but criminal? Earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent notices to Instagram influencers, celebrities and models whose posts did not accurately disclose the sponsored deal. FTC guidelines require that sponsored posts must have clear reference to the fact they are a form of paid advertising, with words like “sponsored by” in the caption, or by using the hashtag #ad. That is why the app is launching a new program that allows 'grammers to reference the company they're being sponsored by. At last, some much needed transparency.
The new feature works by adding the sponsored brand’s name where a location tag would normally go. The influencer has to self select the post itself as “Branded Content” in their “Advanced Settings” which allows them to tag their business partner for the post. This also applies to Instagram stories, as seen below with fashion influencer, @songofstyle’s most recent posts.
So this new feature is going to cut the BS and allow both followers and the FTC to chill out a bit. Yet, this brings attention to the larger issue of how insidious advertising can be thanks to social media. Influencers convince us through perfectly posed pictures that they use or wear certain products (ones that could potentially make our lives that perfect?) when in all actuality it's just for a paycheck.
But hold up! Are we really any different from the Instagram models and celebrities that do this? Is our own Insta profile not just another way to promote our "personal brand" and filtered lifestyle? The only difference between us mere mortals and social media celebrities is that we are not being paid to show our lives off. If we were more transparent about our social media accounts and how honestly they reflect our lives, would we have to start using the hashtag #ad too? Hey, for $15,000, we wouldn't mind.
[Photo via @khloekardashian]