Influencer marketing relies on confusing the average user — that’s what makes it effective. The clearest version is when an influencer puts #ad
in the caption, which is very easy to miss, but there are a billion less obvious variations.
Sometimes an influencer will simply tag a brand in the photo (does this mean they were paid to post? Or given a free gift? Or just like the brand?). Sometimes they’ll write flowery language about “partnering” with a brand or give out a discount code with their name on it. Or maybe they’ll just say “thanks @BRAND.” Or maybe nothing at all!!!
In theory, there ARE rules. The Federal Trade Commission, the government agency that regulates advertising, has guidelines for disclosing social media ads. The rules say that any material relationship to a brand must be disclosed. This means an influencer needs to say if they have been given a big wad of cash to do a post, but also if a makeup company sent them a free lipstick and they posted about it — even if the gift was unsolicited. It also needs to be disclosed if an influencer has a financial stake in a brand (DJ Khaled and Cîroc, for example), or even if they have a spouse or family member who does.
And there are very specific rules for how to disclose that relationship in an ad. It must say #ad
doesn’t cut it), and that disclosure must appear in the first three lines of an Instagram caption, before the caption text gets cut off in the feed.
What a mess and Facebook running it, makes it messier... The fact is these big networks influence a lot of people and their opinions. And where there is paid advertising that can be inserted directly into people's feeds, these advertisers uses all sorts of psychology and tricks to get their message across. This is probably the reason why so many alternative networks are taking off without paid advertising at all. But of course there is still the way to get this done through influencers (where the lines blur between what is an opinion vs paid advertising) - but then you have the choice to follow that influencer or not. At least the choice lies with yourself.
The question is whether we as users can change the situation? It just seems to me that many have decided not, and put their "vote" elsewhere and gone to other networks. Yes there are many other social networks and most are doing quite well. They tend to focus more on their users and their interests vs commercial interests. Most are free with small payment for additional offerings such as extra storage, sticker packs, temse4s, etc.
See Instagram Influencer Marketing Is Already A Nightmare. Political Ads Will Make It A Shitshow.
It’s already impossible for users to tell what’s #sponsored or not on Instagram.