Is Instagram Influencer Marketing Misleading?
Since Facebook acquired Instagram, marketers are increasingly using high profile Instagrammers for their influencer marketing. At the same time, discussions arise among hardcore Instagrammers on how to deal with this type of advertising.
Let’s take a closer look at how influencers deal with these situations.
In exchange for money, trips, or other goodies, Instagrammers are flown in to capture a brand’s products or events on their smartphones.
Consequently, these photos are uploaded on the brand’s and/or Instagrammer’s profile, to create as much awareness for the brand as possible.
Now the question rises among hardcore Instagrammers: to which extent must an Instagrammer indicate that he or she was commissioned by a brand to take these photos, as to prevent the possibility of misleading the audience?
Until now, most brands have paid Instagrammers in kind. Puma, for example, sent 10 influential Instagram and Tumblr users to Abu Dhabi to capture Puma’s sailing team in action during the Volvo Ocean Race.
In exchange, the influencers received a free flight to and stay in Abu Dhabi. Each user posted multiple photos over the course of one week.
In Influential Instagrammer Anthony Danielle’s (@takinyerphoto, 200,462 followers) case, only one of these postings explicitly mentioned flying to Abu Dhabi on behalf of Puma, a posting that could easily be missed by followers who do not check Instagram daily.
Even though these influencers were not paid in the traditional sense of the word, should they explicitly mention in every posting that they were asked by a brand to take photos?
No, says Instagrammer Brian DiFeo (@bridif, 138,406 followers):
“I’m just sharing my experiences with my audience. Sometimes it’s personal and sometimes it’s professional.”
As one of Instagram’s widely used influencers, DiFeo has plenty of experience in this area. Being an influential Instagrammer, he has worked with paying brands such as Samsung and Nike.
To raise awareness for Samsung’s new Galaxy Note smartphone, DiFeo, along with fellow NYC influencers @takinyerphoto, and Liz Eswein (@newyorkcity, 414,194 followers), created a campaign surrounding the hashtag #benoteworthy.
The regulations of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an independent agency of the US government aimed at consumer protection, made Samsung’s influencers decide to explicitly inform followers of the fact that the photo was sponsored by Samsung, in every posting they made.
However, for other paid commissions done by the threesome (such as a photo shoot for MyNicolita Swimwear) there were no explicit mentions of the photos being sponsored and paid for, and consequently followers were not clearly informed of the commercial nature of these postings.
It can be said that adding the brand name as a hash tag is enough to let followers know that an influencer is working for a brand.
But, brand related hash tags can be added to photos by every Instagram user without being sponsored by the brand, a feature that is increasingly used for crowd-sourcing branded images (by Starbucks, for example).
Therefore the lack of a sponsored hash tag can certainly lead to the misleading of a consumer, because the influencer’s follower does not immediately know if the photo was posted because the Instagrammer wanted to share his or her personal experiences with followers or because of professional and commercial reasons, to advertise and raise awareness for a brand.
What About You?
Do you think Instagrammers should explicitly notify their followers when they are working for and being paid (in kind) by a brand, to prevent the possibility of misleading them?
Consequently, should the Instagram team work with organizations like the FTC to set up guidelines for brands when it comes to using Instagrammers as influencers? Or should organizations like WOMMA take the lead?