As I was scrolling through Instagram stories this morning, one of my favorite fashion bloggers posted that she was ranked #1 in exemplary influencers that properly disclosed their sponsored posts by The Fashion Law online. According to Federal Trade Commission law, influencers really do need to disclose when they are getting paid to promote a product or brand using hashtags like #ad or #sponsored. So why is it that some influencer’s “#ad” hashtags bother me while some of them truly work? I don’t think the hashtags alone are what necessarily make a sponsored post tacky. Instead, I believe it is the sincerity and transparency of the influencer in general and their relationship with their audience that determines the success of a post.
One of the influencers I follow on Instagram is a fellow classmate at Pepperdine and her sponsored posts have never seemed genuine to me, never converted me to purchase a sponsored item, and generally just annoy me. I realized that she only promotes products on her page and never shares photos or stories of her real life. In my eyes, she’s merely an ad robot that pumps posts out when she receives compensation and that way of sharing has never persuaded me to buy anything.
On the other hand, my favorite influencer, Arielle Charnas that runs the account SomethingNavy, constantly shares real and intimate details of her life, sharing the trials of having her first child, her marriage and what it was like to start her blog. She’s completely transparent with her followers, always disclosing if she is getting paid to promote and even detailing the process in which she goes through to set up brand collaborations. One of the only times I have bought a product that an influencer recommended was multiple makeup items that Arielle was paid to sponsor, but then gave her take on her favorites, what worked well, and what was just okay. I purchased the products she recommended to buy the following week and still use it to this day because she was consistently open and honest not just about advertising, but also her life.
When earning the trust of one’s followers, it is important to present your entire brand with transparency and openness to garner the trust of those watching. It is important to disclose whether a post is sponsored because while it may seem easy for students in the communication division at Pepperdine to spot native advertising or sponsored Instagram posts, the general public has a harder time telling what is real and what is an ad. I think it’s entirely possible for influencers to successfully turn viewers into purchasers, but there is much more strategy involved than merely remembering to hashtag #ad.
Kaitlyn Rassi, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Spring 2018 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: Do Instagrammers really need to use hashtags like #ad or #sponsored? Isn’t that tacky? Can’t people tell that it’s sponsored content without them?