HOW TO PROPERLY DISCLOSE AN INSTAGRAM SPONSORSHIP ON STORIES
One of the latest trends in influencer marketing is including Instagram Stories in your partnership, sponsorship or collab package with brands. It’s favorable to influencers because Instagram Stories are an effective way to promote your Instagram sponsorship without having to flood your feed with tons of permanent posts. For some reason, Stories don’t feel as “salesly” but maybe that’s because no matter what you are promoting to your followers, that message is going to disappear in just a short time.
Just because Stories that promote or endorse products don’t last forever, doesn’t mean they are exempt from proper disclosures required by law. Instagram Stories are treated the same as posts – if you have a “material connection” to anything in your Story then you have to disclose that connection to your followers…no matter what.
Brands are increasingly allowing Stories to be a component of an Instagram sponsorship package because they demonstrate measurable and trackable analytics. Every Story view means that someone physically engaged with the post by pressing to watch it. With the rise of bots and fake likes, no one can actually be sure how many people engage with every permanent post on Instagram.
As Instagram sponsorships get displayed on Stories more and more, you can bet that the Federal Trade Commission (the US boss on this topic) will be on the lookout for accounts that do not comply with their disclosure requirements and start cracking down.
All Instagram Sponsorships Need to Be Disclosed No Matter Where or How They’re Posted.
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) who is the US legal authority on this topic has quickly adapted rules and regulations to catch up with the fast paced social media landscape. With the introduction of new social mediums like Snapchat and Instagram Stories, lawmakers had to figure out how traditional advertising and endorsement rules applied to this new world.
The most important thing to know is if you have a “material connection” to anything in your Instagram Stories, then you need to disclose it to your viewers. Generally, a few scenarios can trigger a “material connection” that would require having to go the extra step to make sure your followers understand what that “material connection” really is and how it could potentially impact what you are telling them about.
Basically what a “material connection” means in plain English is that there’s some other reason (besides you genuinely liking the product, service or destination) that could influence your opinion. For example, a “material connection” can be triggered by a:
- Payment (Monetary Compensation)
- Example: You were paid by a suitcase company to post a video on your Instagram Stories of you walking through the airport using their new carryon luggage.
- Gift, Free Product and/or Substantial Discount:
- Example: You were given a free camera bag with the agreement you would post a picture of you using it during your trip to Morocco on your Instagram Stories.
- Business Relationship
- Example: You just launched a new travel app with your best friend and you want to promote a video of you using it on your Instagram Stories and encourage people to download the app.
- Family Relationship
- Example: Your brother has a coffee shop in Bali and you want to post a video of you sipping a cappuccino with your name in foam on your Instagram Stories and encourage your followers to stop by.
The rule is pretty simple: if there is some other reason (or motive) that you are advertising or endorsing some thing, product, place or destination on your Instagram Stories, then you need to disclose it to your followers. It’s up to the viewers to decide if they think your opinion is genuine or if it was influenced by that so called “material connection.”
The FTC has a few things to say about disclosing an Instagram Sponsorship on Stories.
Basically, Instagram sponsorships have to be disclosed “clearly and conspicuously” on every Instagram Story that you post. The FTC presents guidelines on how to properly disclose a “material connection” on social media and every disclosure needs to be:
- Close to the claims to which they relate;
- In a font that is easy to read;
- In a shade that stands out against the background;
- For video ads, on the screen long enough to be noticed, read, and understood; and
- For audio disclosures, read at a cadence that is easy for consumers to follow and in words consumers will understand.
Instagram Stories are different than traditional Instagram posts because there is both an audio and a video element. It’s important to know that an audio disclosure is NOT enough because many people watch videos without the volume on so just telling your followers about the material connection in your video is not considered sufficient notice. A visual disclosure superimposed on the image or video is required and an audio disclosure is just a bonus.
So How Do You Create A Disclosure That Follows The Rules?
It’s easy! Instagram stories makes creating a visual disclosure pretty simple because there are built in tools that allow you to superimpose writing on top of a video or image. Just as you would write #ad or #sponsored in your Instagram caption, you can do the same on your Instagram Story. Here are some tips to make sure your Instagram Sponsorships are disclosed properly:
1. Be Blunt.
Avoid using fancy language or online slang. Disclosures should be created for the average person (aka your grandma), not a social media aficionado.
2. Make the Disclosure Easy To Read And Notice.
Basically, don’t minimize the font to the point it’s illegible. Make sure the text contrasts enough from the background image so it stands out (an easy way to do this is by using the solid background feature for text.) Most importantly, don’t stick the disclosure in the bottom right hand corner hoping no one will notice your amazing hotel tour is in fact an #ad.
3. Pay Attention To The Amount of Time The Disclosure Stays On The Screen.
The point of an Instagram sponsorship disclosure is for people to actually understand that it is one. Since Instagram Stories can go by in the blink of an eye, be sensitive to the amount of time you give your followers to look at the image or video.
4. Don’t Make It a Needle In a Haystack.
With Instagram Stories, it’s easy to get creative and put a lot of text and fun emojis superimposed over the image or video. Remember, all disclosures need to stand out from the crowd to pass the test.
5. Disclose it in Every Story.
If you have an Instagram Sponsorship that requires multiple Instagram Stories we hate to break it to you but a proper disclosure should be in every one. You can never assume that someone saw the first story where you made the disclosure and must treat every individual story as independent from the others, as you would a traditional Instagram post.
But wait…do you even need an audio disclosure?
Not really, but even if you do a visual disclosure about your Instagram Sponsorship, we suggest you also do an audio disclosure to foster trust and transparency with your followers. If you were given a free hotel stay at the Four Seasons Maui and want to show your viewers around the incredible property, thanking the hotel for hooking you up with the amazing stay is a smart move for 2 reasons: (1) it keeps it 100 with your viewers; and (2) it will also make the Instagram Sponsor really happy you acknowledged them in your video.
Trust us, overdelivering always pays off in the long run (think recurring clients and partnerships…cha-ching).
As a general rule of thumb, always put yourself in the viewer’s shoes when creating your disclosure because the most important thing is that it makes sense to them, not you. If your followers are loyal, they will understand that Instagram Sponsorships are the way you pay your bills and won’t mind them as long as you’re upfront. Besides having to comply with the law, being transparent is always a good idea – no one likes a shady person. #justsaying