Instagram has long been the Wild West when it comes to social media advertising, with sponsors giving “creators” (what Instagram describes as celebrities, influencers, public figures, and publishers) high-dollar deals to shill for their products. The trouble is, not everyone is big on following the rules.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, creators have to make it clear when they have been paid to post a piece of content. In the past, posts were supposed to be marked with #ad or #sponsored, but without tools within the platform to make the agreement obvious and official, skirting the rules with other hashtags (or, often, nothing at all) was common.

But with Instagram’s rollout of a new branded content policy last week, things ought to begin changing for the better. And if you’ve ever posted branded content on Facebook, the new solution should look very familiar.

Since June, Instagram has been testing a new “Paid partnership with” tag on posts among a selected group of creators and businesses. On Aug. 29, they announced in an update to the June blog post that access to the new tag will be expanded, with the “global rollout being gradually released over the next few months.” Additionally, Instagram announced they will begin “enforcing branded content that is not properly tagged” in the coming weeks.

The new tag appears between the creator’s Instagram handle and the content they post (see an example below). It makes it clear that the post represents a commercial relationship between the creator and a business, which some creators may not necessarily like to do – after all, an “authentic” persona on social media is why some became popular in the first place. However, the benefits it gives a brand or business should make it much more appealing on their side of the agreement.

instagram's branded content policy example
An example of Instagram’s new tag for branded content. Tap/Click to zoom.
Courtesy: Instagram

How it Works

Instagram’s new policy is actually the same as the policy for its parent company, Facebook. In fact, to create an Instagram Business Profile business partners will be required to have a Facebook Page. There is a good reason for that: To view the reach and engagement data on posts they sponsor, the business will need to view the posts in their Facebook Page Insights.

This will allow the brand or business to see Insights-level data for their branded posts so that they can be assured they’re getting their money’s worth. It will also apply to Instagram Stories posts, so tagged business partners will be able to see the metrics for reach, taps forwards, taps backward, replies, and exits on any of those posts for 14 days after they are published. For regular feed posts, Insights data will last forever.

Beyond that, the new policy will also simplify the approval process for posts between businesses and creators. Prior to the new tool, when a business reached out to a creator to sponsor posts and an agreement was reached, often the two sides would have a back-and-forth email chain in which the creator would pitch post ideas and share the photos or videos and captions they planned to use. They would need to be approved by the business before publication in order for the creator to fulfill their end of the contract.

An example of a sponsored Instagram Stories post. Tap/Click to zoom.
Courtesy: Instagram

With the new tool, a post’s sponsor will be given the option of turning on Partner Approvals, which grant them the ability to approve a creator’s post in advance before the business is tagged in the post. This page describes the process in detail, but essentially the creator begins creating a piece of content on Instagram, goes into the advanced settings and tags a business partner (which must also have an Instagram business profile), then once the post is published, the partner can approve it, which will allow their tag to appear. Once that occurs, the business partner will receive a notification and will be granted access to the Instagram post insights by going to the “Branded Content” tab in their Facebook Page Insights. The business partner can also later decide to opt out of the post, if they so wish.

A look at the approval screen for Instagram’s new branded content policy. Tap/Click to zoom.
Courtesy: Instagram

Our View

All in all, the new branded content policy is a good step toward maturation for sponsored content on Instagram that should reduce confusion and make it easier to identify and remove posts by scofflaws who ignore the rules. The platform still has issues with purchased followers and engagement, as shown here in an experiment by marketing agency Mediakix, but the first step in combating those issues is creating an effective and clear policy for legitimate creators and businesses to benefit from the massive reach and engagement available to them through the platform. And by piggybacking off of the success of Facebook’s current policy and using the very same tools to manage branded content on Instagram, it has reduced the learning curve for marketers and given them powerful audience targeting capabilities.

At Share Rocket, we believe any steps that help content creators, publishers, and broadcasters tap into the immense value in their social media footprint are steps in the right direction. This new branded content certainly fits the bill for that, and we’re excited to see what kind of partnerships and creative content our customers come up with for branded content posts. Instagram is the second-best social platform for driving engagement on social media and now it has the same tools to drive revenue as the best, its big brother Facebook. That means our customers can be rewarded sooner for their investment of time and effort on social media, and that is the ultimate goal for any content creator, publisher, or broadcaster.

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