If you’ve been paying attention to your Instagram app these past few months, you might be wondering – what is paid partnership on Instagram? In 2017, Instagram launched the paid partnership feature to increase the transparency on sponsored posts throughout the platform.
During this time, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) started cracking down on influencer posts that didn’t make clear the paid relationship between influencer and brand (FTC, 2019). Consequently, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was also investigating new ways to handle sponsored advertising that violates regulations (ACCC, 2023).
The paid partnership feature increases transparency with the audience, offers access to insights, and eliminates the risk of negative consequences from sponsored posts, keeping the FTC and ACCC off your back.
What is paid partnership on Instagram?
A paid partnership on Instagram occurs when an influencer or brand advocate shares a post or story on the platform and tags a business account as a Business Partner. When applied correctly, the paid partnership tag appears at the top of the image or story where the area/location normally sits. Followers will see ‘Paid partnership with [Business Partner]’ directly under the account’s username. The Business Partner title is a hyperlink that leads directly to the business’s page.
The use of the paid partnership feature is becoming commonplace among influencers, making the platform a more trusted source of brand referrals. As more people ask, “what is paid partnership on Instagram”, it’s clear that this feature increases the level of transparency for influencers and brand advocates on the platform. Furthermore, it gives influencers an opportunity to monetize Instagram.
When should influencers use the paid partnerships feature?
Influencers should aim to use the paid partnerships feature for all feed or story posts that have been sponsored by a brand or partner of some type. Even if the brand is not paying specifically for that post but has a general sponsorship arrangement in place, they should be tagged into relevant posts or stories to ensure the influencer maintains transparency with their audience. The specifics of this arrangement should be discussed and agreed upon between the influencer and the brand at the start of the engagement.
When not to use the paid partnerships feature?
There are some times when it is not appropriate for an influencer to tag a brand into a post or story using the paid partnerships feature. This includes when a brand has not engaged the influencer as a brand ambassador or for a paid campaign. It may also be that the influencer is sharing images or information about a product that has been gifted or part of a previous campaign. Again, the specifics of this arrangement should be discussed and agreed upon between the influencer and the brand at the start of the engagement.
What are the benefits of using the paid partnership feature? Brands, influencers and audience unpacked
For brands, the paid partnership function provides direct access to insights on the influencer and the engagement they are bringing to the brand. This function helps brands gather information and statistics on how the sponsored content campaigns are performing on Instagram, allowing brands to make better decisions for future Instagram marketing campaigns. Access to these stats can help brands determine which influencers are more effective for the brand’s products/services and allows them to estimate what ROI to expect from individual influencers involved in the campaign strategy.
Specific metrics for brands to look out for here are reach and engagement on posts, such as likes and comments, and reach, taps forward, taps backward, replies, and exits on Instagram stories (note that brands only have 14 days to see the performance of story posts when they’re tagged as a Business Partner).
The paid partnership function also allows businesses to turn on the “Partner Approval” setting. This gives brands the power to approve or disapprove any sponsored content partnerships before an influencer’s tagged post is published, to ensure that their Instagram marketing materials are on-brand.
As an influencer, the paid partnership function assists in building a more transparent, trusting relationship with the audience through the disclosure of sponsored posts. It also gives influencers the ability to collect more data, allowing them to make more informed decisions on what business partners and brands to engage with. This feature will also work as an indication to other brands that the particular influencer partakes in paid partnerships and may increase the amount of sponsorship opportunities they receive.
As an audience member, it is great to be kept in the loop when a post is sponsored or just a genuine recommendation. This feature offers transparency before you consider engaging with the product or service being recommended.
How to use the paid partnership function on Instagram? Brands and influencers unpacked
Step 1. Add partner approvals for branded content
Once your brand has been granted access to this feature, you’ll need to begin by turning on your partner approval setting. For more information, you can access Instagram’s help page (Instagram, 2023a).
- Go to Options and find Business Settings. Scroll down and find Branded Content Approvals.
- Approval is currently automatically off. Toggle on to approve.
- If you want to find additional creator accounts to approve, they live below the Require Approvals toggle button.
- Any approved creator accounts will show up.
- Once all creator accounts are approved, your brand approval tray will be empty.
Step 2. Tag notification and tag removal
Once the campaign goes live, the business partner will receive a notification via Facebook, Instagram, and Instagram Direct if it is a Branded Content post on Stories. If the business partner wants to be removed from the tag, read the Instagram help page for a step-by-step guide (Instagram, 2023b).
Step 3. Set up branded content ads (optional)
If you’re a business that wants to create a branded content ad with a creator, make sure that the creator has shared the post or story you want to promote, tagged your business, and enabled your business to promote your branded content (Instagram, 2023c).
Go to your Ads Manager and create an ad (Meta, 2023). This process will remain the same as it usually does; however, when choosing your media, click on ‘Use Existing Post’. Here, you’ll see the list of available branded content posts and stories in the ‘Creative’ section. These are the branded content posts and stories that a creator has given you permission to promote.
Finalise your ad, and click confirm.
Step 4. Measure brand content ad performance
Once the branded content goes live, the brand will see organic insights in the “Branded Content” tab in Facebook Page Insights. Business partners must have a FB Page to create an Instagram Business Profile. You can also check on your paid partnership insights with Facebook’s Business Manager in the “Branded Content” tab under “Measure and Report.”
For Instagram Stories, tagged business partners will have a 14-day window to see the following metrics: reach, taps forward, taps backward, replies, and exits. Creators will continue to see metrics in their app insights.
Stories insights will last only 14 days, while feed insights will last forever.
Feed posts insights Stories insights Accessing Insights from Business Manager
Source: Instagram, 2023b
If you want more information on business insights, you can access the Instagram help page on it (Instagram, 2023d).
Step 1. Tagging a business partner on your content post
- For feed posts, go to advanced settings on the last page of the creation flow.
- Tap on the tag business partner field to open up a search view.
- Search for a partner. Partners still requiring approval are grayed out and divided by a header.
- Tapping on a partner adds the partner to the post.
- Note: For now, adding a partner will disable cross-sharing to Facebook.
Read more information on tagging business partners in the feed on the relevant Instagram help page (Instagram, 2023e).
Forgot to tag a Business Partner before posting? No worries. You can add them after your post is live by editing the post and selecting ‘Add Business Partner’ directly under the post image. Follow the same process outlined above.
Step 2. Tagging a business partner in branded content stories
- For Stories, go to the icon toolbar after taking a story photo or video but before posting it.
- Tapping on the link icon opens a view with the option to tag a business partner. For some influencers, it may also have the option to add a URL.
- Search for the business partner.
Source: Instagram, 2023b
Paid Partnerships on Instagram: Myths and Challenges
Some people think that “paid partnership” on Instagram always means money was exchanged. But that’s not true. Sometimes, influencers just get free items or experiences for a post. Even if no money changes hands, Instagram wants these deals to be clear to everyone.
Another thing people sometimes believe? That influencers will get fewer likes and comments when they tag a post as a paid partnership. But that’s not what’s happening. People like to know when something’s an ad, and they might even engage more with those honest posts.
Challenges with Paid Partnerships on Instagram
Brands and influencers face some challenges with these partnerships:
- Picking the Right Influencer: It’s not just about followers. Brands want influencers whose fans match their target customers.
- Figuring Out Success: Brands can see likes, comments, and other data. But it’s not always easy to know if a partnership is truly a win.
For influencers, challenges can be:
- Staying Real: When money or gifts are involved, keeping posts genuine can be tough.
- Fans’ Reactions: Some fans might not like seeing ads and think the influencer has changed.
Furthermore, different countries have different rules about online ads. In the U.S., the FTC sets these rules. But influencers with fans from all over need to know and follow many different regulations.
Instagram introduced the paid partnership feature in 2017, changing how influencers and brands work. This feature makes it clear when content is sponsored, helping to follow rules set by groups like the FTC and ACCC.
This is good for both brands and influencers. Brands can see how well their posts do, and influencers build trust with their followers. People also like knowing if a post is an ad or a real recommendation. But there are challenges too. Brands have to find the right influencers, and influencers must keep their content authentic. Different countries also have different rules about ads.
Still, with these changes, Instagram shows it values honesty and clear information, making it better for everyone. With Instagram constantly adapting and updating, this feature will only become more prominent and user-friendly in the future.