Late last year, I spoke to a journalist from a business publication about influencer marketing and the culture around advertisement disclosure. I was one of the few experts she consulted about the hot topic that has landed a few celebrities and brands in trouble. And while bloggers haven’t been getting the bulk of the blame, it’s only a matter of time before we earn ourselves a bad name if we don’t start paying attention to the Advertising Standard Authority’s (ASA) rules. So to dispel rumours and be a little more transparent about how promotional posts work in the world of bloggers, read on to find out the complexities of what you need to know about advertising on Instagram.
To #ad or not?
It’s pretty simple, if the brand is telling you how to post something, providing a brief or even compulsory hashtags, it’s a form of promotion that warrants disclosure. From any outsiders’ perspective and even my own, this is a no brainer. But if that were the case in reality, you wouldn’t be here reading this post. There’s no binary divide between influencers that are authentic and want to disclose everything, versus those who are very discreet and worried about how #ad will affect their influence. That kind of issue is pretty much a thing of the past. There are now bloggers who will claim #ad for products that have simply been gifted, haven’t been paid for and don’t come with guidelines. Why? Some of the reasons include looking popular to their peers and appearing more in-demand to other brands. Then there are girls that won’t declare whether or not it’s a promotion unless the brand requests them to – they are shifting the responsibility solely onto their client. You’ll see this mostly with Instagram Stories where their casual nature is most misleading as compared to a curated feed with product placement.
Do followers care?
I’ve come to realise that most things that we bloggers obsess over are mostly confined to our community. The idea that followers like advertisement posts less is part of that festering and speculation. If you’ve ever noticed a decrease in engagement because of #ad, it’s more likely that the image is way too commercial. Recently, I was asked to reshoot a product image twice before I was eventually released from the campaign with no post. I’m not embarrassed to talk about that because this was the reason: In my photo, the logo was clearly displayed as requested and it followed the brief. However, when comparing mine to the images that were approved and had been posted, there was a critical difference. My photo, even without the product, could be posted by its own merit. The others depended on the presence of the product for it to make any sense at all. And the latter was what the brand wanted.
To directly answer the question “do followers care?” (which is measured by their response in engagement), the majority of social media users have come to accept that this is what we do and are desensitised to most of it. But then is indifference better than a genuine reaction? For the sake of integrity and future work, I believe a good promotional post incorporates the product organically with a photo that is strong enough to rack up engagement with or without brand presence. It takes a lot more hard work than a mindless product snap but it’ll pay off.
What happens if you charge purely based on stats
The logic is that if an influencer is charging a brand purely based on stats, whether or not they’re good, they’re leveraging their audience for commercial gain. Any blogger that makes money off of their social media is essentially doing this. However, the distinction comes with whether you’re charging by factoring in your niche or the fact your content is different to your peers, for example a styling and flatlay only feed (like @elkantlers) or beautiful videos and cinemagraphs. If so, then you’re prioritising your vision and direction over a generic paid brief, and this will resonate better with your following. Take some of my favourites, @wishwishwish and @parkncube, where their #ad content doesn’t suffer at all.
Despite all the gossip about fake bloggers and fake likes etc, most influencers can boast solid influence with real stats as evidence. A handful of them can even weather a drastic algorithm change relatively well. All these factors reflect on their ability to rake in campaigns with great brands. I’m not going to repeat myself on how to calculate your Instagram fee because I’ll drop the key ones here and here for you to check out later. But what sets these bloggers apart is also their perspective.
When charging a high price because of your quality of content, which by the way, does not simply mean a flattering well lit photo, you are doing your best to earn that fee. Comparatively, when charging purely because of your following, the attitude here is that you deserve your rate based on the strength of numbers alone. Okay, that may be true but hear me out. Setting a high price without understanding the demand for your content won’t get you very far. An industry source told me that her friend with 160k asks for around £80 a photo because she takes mirror selfies and that’s her thing she’s known for. Another influencer, this time based in Singapore, can’t ask for more than a few hundred dollars for a post, even though she’s one of the biggest social media personalities in the country and it’s for that same reason. They are being reasonable and fair about why and what they’re popular for. This is not to say that they can’t or don’t make a healthy living out of Instagram. But it does raise another question for another post in the future:
Could it be that the lucrativeness of influence is dying out and instead, creativity is on the rise?
DM me or drop me an email with your thoughts about #ad and if you think it affects engagement or your audience’s perception. Looking forward to hearing from you!