At World Travel Market in 2016, we ran a session called Content In Crisis which looked at the gnarly problem of whether influencers should be required to clearly label content that has been sponsored, using hashtags such as #spon and #ad. It was timely because the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had started to investigate the issue and crack down on offenders. It was a lively session with views from all sides of the debate.
So three years on, what has changed? While some influencers have started labelling their sponsored posts clearly, others have not. Late last year, the ASA launched a series of guidelines for influencers while the CMA opened an investigation into whether people had been unduly influenced to make purchases. Some influencers even had their posts banned.
At World Travel Market this year, we will find out what effect this has had as the CMA’s legal director Jason Freeman joins us in a session called ‘Influencer Illusion and Reality’ on Monday 4th November. Be sure to save the date.
The focus on sponsored content made an announcement earlier this month by Instagram that was particularly interesting – it is now allowing advertisers to promote creators’ organic branded content posts as feed ads.
What this means in practice is that posts will appear in the influencer’s own feed but be labelled with “Sponsored” and “Paid partnership with advertiser” as shown in the examples above.
Fashion brand Old Navy has been trialling the technology. Their VP of brand communications Liat Weingarten says, “We’re consistently looking for more sophisticated ways such as branded content ads to serve partner content to the right shoppers, instead of just throwing it into the social abyss. Promoting content directly from an influencer’s handle inherently gives the post more authenticity than coming from a brand handle, and we’re seeing significantly higher engagement rates using this strategy.”
That’s fashion. What about travel?
Earlier this year, Instagram carried out a fascinating survey of 21,000 people aged 13-64 who used Instagram at least once a week across 13 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, France, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States) to ask them what they were looking for on Instagram.
It found that 91% of these used Instagram to follow one of their interests. 42% of people said they pursued their interest in fashion on the platform, for example. However, the number one interest that people pursued on the platform was travel (45% of users).
The company says, “Marketers have a unique opportunity to connect with their audiences by staying on top of trends and areas of interest. It helps keep their content relevant and provides market insight into what motivates their customers.”
If regulators are going to crack down more on what influencers post then this offers a way forward.
The question you might ask is whether people who follow influencers will mind. Let’s jump back to that survey again…
It shows that regular users of Instagram are happy to hear from brands as long as their content is fun, real and creative. The best influencers know how to do content which is exactly that.