Have you ever done or plan on doing sponsored Instagram posts so you can make money? Do you know the proper way to disclose sponsored Instagram posts?
Here’s a few of the questions I’ve received from bloggers/Instagrammers over the past couple of weeks:
- Is using the hashtag #ad enough?
- What about sponsored Instagram Stories?
- Do you have to disclose a partnership even if you weren’t paid in money, for example I was given free product instead?
I’ve talked about how to make money with a blog by doing sponsored posts. But did you know that you can also make money on Instagram by doing sponsored Instagram posts?
If you want to make money doing sponsored Instagram posts, you need to know how to properly disclose sponsored Instagram posts according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
What is the FTC?
The FTC is the United States consumer protection agency. The FTC is tasked with preventing fraudulent or deceptive advertising AND educating marketers about their responsibilities under the truth-in-advertising laws and standards.
The FTC has been warning Instagram influencers about publishing sponsored Instagram posts without “clear and conspicuous disclosure”.
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Note: The FTC continually updates its Endorsement Guides to provide clearer directions on what ‘language’ influencers can and cannot use when working with businesses on sponsored content.
What are the FTC’s Rules of Disclosure?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all legalese on you, but this is what you need to understand so that you are FTC compliant…
You are required by the FTC to disclose your endorsement relationships if there is a “material connection” between an endorser (an instagrammer) and an advertiser (the brand or company the endorser is sharing).
What is a material connection?
A material connection could be a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the gift of free product for endorsement.
So – if you’re doing a sponsored Instagram post and you’re being paid with money and/or in free product, this must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in your Instagram post!
How To Properly Disclose Sponsored Instagram Posts
A common practice among influencers is to include a hashtag like #sp, #Thanks [Brand], #partner, #sponsored, #ad, #paid, or #partnership in the captions of their sponsored Instagram posts.
But that’s not enough anymore.
If you want to properly disclose sponsored Instagram posts, the only FTC-compliant hashtags are #sponsored or #ad. Both hashtags make it crystal clear that a person is working with a brand and leaves no room for interpretation.
You also can’t simply hide #sponsored or #ad in the middle of your other hashtags, nor in the comments – the hashtag needs to be within your post!
Here’s one of my own real life examples using #sponsored below:
Something to note: consumers viewing Instagram posts on mobile devices typically see only the first three lines of a longer post unless they click “more,” which many may not do. Thus, when making endorsements on Instagram, you need to disclose any material connection above the “more” button in the post itself.
And a real life example using #ad below:
How To Properly Disclose Sponsored Instagram Posts as a Partnership?
If you’re doing a sponsored Instagram post as a partnership with a brand, you should still use one of the FTC-compliant hashtags, but you might also be using a unique partnership hashtag as well. This typically uses the brand name and partner in the hashtag.
For example, Fab Fit Fun created the hashtag #fabfitfunpartner and asks their influencers to post this hashtag at the beginning of their Instagram caption.
*This extra hashtag helps brands track all of their Instagram partnerships in one place. Note: The brand should let you know if they have one of these special hashtags to use.
Is Tagging a Brand in your Photo Enough?
If you tag a brand/business in an Instagram post and you have (or had) a relationship with that brand/business, the FTC considers this an endorsement and it needs to be in the caption of your post also.
For example, if you post a photo of yourself to Instagram and you tag the clothing business of the dress that you’re wearing, and you have a paid (monetarily or free product) relationship with that business, you must disclose that the post is sponsored in the caption of your post.
This rule even applies if you USED to have a relationship with the business that you tag.
For example, if you were given a dress to endorse in a post in September, and then you share another post wearing that dress in February, even if you no longer have a ‘relationship’ with that business, you are still supposed to disclose that the post is sponsored.
The reason that the FTC gives for this type of scenario is that your followers may not have seen the original post where you said you got the product from xyz brand. Note: We haven’t really seen influencers or brands following this rule, but you should still be aware of it!
How To Properly Disclose Sponsored Instagram Stories
Have you ever done or seen a ‘mail day’ or ‘unboxing’ video in Instagram Stories? These seem to be popular with a lot of influencers. Why? It’s a great way for influencers to easily showcase the brand, plus followers seem to love an unveiling.
But many Instagrammers don’t know that the FTC’s rules apply to videos too.
The disclosure should be easy to notice and readable within the length of your story. And just like Instagram hashtags, your disclosures on Instagram Stories can’t be hidden among other text.
And because some viewers watch Instagram Stories with the sound turned off, a verbal-only disclosure isn’t enough.
The best way to disclose sponsored Instagram Stories is to add the #sponsored or #ad hashtag somewhere on your story.
Here’s a real life example of a properly disclosed Instagram Story below:
I know, I know… it’s a lot of information to take in!
If you want to read the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, you can read it HERE.
If you want a checklist with an overview of the key points, subscribe to receive my free download checklist in the middle of this post!
Influencer marketing is one of the best ways to generate sales and make money on Instagram. It’s a win for you/the Instagrammer AND the businesses that you’re endorsing.
Make sure you know how to properly disclose sponsored Instagram posts and if you are ever in doubt… DISCLOSE!