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Instagram just stepped up to the plate with a decision to “flag” paid posts. It seems obvious that users of a service should be able to tell what is an ad, and what is a real message from their friends. But, clever marketers have increasingly blurred that line, much to the frustration of users. Instagram made the decision in the interest of user trust to require ads to be identified as such.

Subheads noting “paid partnership with” will be added to posts.

Distinguishing “authentic” posts from paid posts is not always easy on Instagram.

Marketers tell us repeatedly that millennials want authenticity and personalized marketing. Hence the rise of the marketing power of social media.  “Consumers trust the opinions of those in their social media group, including friends, bloggers, and celebrities, more than messages they are getting direct from brands,” Liz Dunn, founder and CEO of Talmage Advisors, a brand strategy consulting firm, told CNBC in an interview in 2016. Social media accounts with large followings are referred to as “influencers” and are highly sought-after by purveyors of products, services, and events.

Trust Was a Factor in Instagram Paid Post Decision

But how trustworthy is the social media platform when that “authentic-looking, apparently user-generated” photograph or story turns out to be paid product placement?

instagram screen shot with flagged posts
Millennials value transparency above all else.

To establish transparency and help users clearly identify paid for content, Instagram is unveiling a new branded content tool. Subheads noting “paid partnership with” will be added to posts where the Instagram user has been paid to feature a product, service, or event. To incentivise businesses to use the tool, Instagram will provide performance data for the sponsored post.

Instagram began humbly in 2010 as a site where users could easily share photos and videos.

In 2013, the company began selling advertising to generate profits.  By 2017, over one million active advertisers pay to place their ads on the platform. Since its inception, Instagram has become one of the primary social media sites for ‘influencing’ both the culture and the buying habits of the millennial generation. Ninety percent (90%) of the users are under the age of 35.

To maintain the trust of its millennial users, Instagram will now tell you who’s getting paid to post.

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