When & where to use the hashtags AD, SP, Sponsored or Collab on influencer posts has been a something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. So often on social media I see influencers (I hate that word) posting content that I know for a fact they are being paid for, but they are not disclosing it. And even when you’re not being paid hard cash for something, there may be a trade/exchange agreement in place. But, you’re still essentially being paid, just with product/service.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) in USA cracked down on celebrities & influencers in 2017. I’m sure you remember Kim Kardashian & her siblings being some of the main celebrity targets. The main reason for disclosing when one is collaborating or being paid for something is so that the person viewing the post is not being misled. And while I understand that we have no laws in South Africa that stipulate that we have to disclose such things, surely it’s the right thing to do?
Instagram has started rolling out the “Paid Partnership” feature where a brand approves a celebrity/influencer as a person they are working with. Then when the person posts the paid content, in the settings it will allow them to stipulate that it is a paid partnership & that tag will show up above the post. In this case there is no need to use hashtags. And it also allows the brand to see results of the post in terms of engagement, reach etc. The facility is currently only available to a few business accounts, but I am sure it will be rolled out within 2018 to all business accounts on the platform.
Below is an example of how the Paid Partnership feature shows up on the feed. This post is from the account of South African influencer Sarah Langa who boasts a following of 146k so it makes sense that she would be among the first in South Africa to gain access to this feature.
As mentioned above, not everyone has the “Paid Partnership” feature available to them as yet, but those of us who are disclosing that we are collaborating or being paid to post a product/service are simply using the relevant hashtags #ad #collab #sp #sponsored etc. I am personally quite religious with this. Aqeelah Harron is someone that I have admired for being one of the first people to use these hashtags here in South Africa. I personally believe using the hashtags is good enough in terms of disclosure. What do you think? Do you even care? Do you see the hashtags that we place on these posts?
Facebook has a similar feature to Instagram where you can tag a business partner. My Facebook page, not personal profile, has been somewhere that I have used this function a lot. The word ‘Paid’ is displayed next to the post as per below:
While Instagram & Facebook are allowing one to disclose when content is paid for, what about your blog posts, YouTube videos, & tweets? On all these platforms, I feel it is important to still disclose sponsored content. On my blog, I will include something along the lines of “This content is sponsored by X”. And when it comes to Twitter I simply include the #sp or #ad in the tweet I am posting. On YouTube I used to include the same sponsored content line that I use on my blog. This would be included in the description box. However, i started noticing that many international YouTubers were inlcuindg the word #AD in the title of the video. To me, this made more sense as most people don’t click to see the details of the description box. Trust me, more often than not I am asked questions on YouTube, & the answers are chilling there in the description box.
YouTube does allow one to disclose the paid partnership in the settings. This is something I have only recently realized. When someone is watching that particular video, a small black text box will appear on the bottom left corner saying “Paid Partnership”. This appears on the screen for 2-3 seconds.
That being said, even Youtubers like Desi Perkins (2.9 million subscribers) are not using the word in the title, but rather in the description box after listing a multitude of products, links etc. where it is easy to miss. As much as I love Desi, I don’t agree with that practice. While in the video she does thank Olay for partnering with her on the video, is that enough? Is it not possible that some people may have not clicked into the video had they seen the #AD in the title. I understand that this may be something that deters YouTubers from using the hashtag in the title; because essentially we want the views right? But again, surely this is the right thing to do? Am I seeing this a little too black & white, or do you agree with me on this one?
I am very proud of the fact that I am able to create content for brands, & while some don’t feel they want to disclose the content being paid; I believe that if your audience knows they can trust your opinion then there is nothing to be worried about. I am fortunate to be in a position where I don’t take work from brands that I don’t want to take. That being said, this puts me in a position to choose the products I endorse. Would I share a product I hate? No. Do I lie when endorsing products? Again, no.
You’re either a blogger or a part of the audience. As a blogger, if/when you produce sponsored content, do you disclose the content? And if you’re a part of the audience that sees this sponsored content, do you care whether or not it is being disclosed?
To end off, I’d like to leave you with some tips/suggestions:
- Don’t rely on disclosures that people will only see if they ‘click to see more’
- Don’t assume that your audience is aware of your relationship to the brand
- Do not assume that your audience “knows” that the content is sponsored
I’d love to hear your feedback on today’s post below. Whether you’re a blogger producing sponsored content, or a member of the audience seeing the content; your input is valuable.
So informative! Thanks Brett 👍
Thanks so much!
I agree 100%.
However I’d like to hear your opinion on this: What if it’s items that were sent to you without the agreement of doing a review or video and you decide to do one a few weeks later out of your own? Would that still need the disclosure?
No you do not need to disclose as you are choosing to share the product as opposed to having an agreement with the brand.
Most of my product reviews are done purely because I want to share the product. I am sent products from brands almost on a daily basis. I don’t share 80 – 90% of what I receive. Sometimes because I don’t like it. Other times just because I’d rather shine light on a product I am more passionate about; or that people are requesting reviews on. But essentially it’s my choice, therefore no need for disclosure.
But Brett, you just said “But, you’re still essentially being paid, just with product/service.”
Doesn’t your response to this question completely contradicts that?
No, these are 2 separate things. Me choosing to do a review on product that was sent to me is not the same as trade/exchange. I am choosing to post about a product.
A trade/exchange agreement is when a brand says “I will give you X, if you do Y”. Therefore you are being paid in the form of the product. And this s why it is not the same as receiving freebie new product launches/ press drops. Most brands understand that there are no guarantees when sending out press drops.
Hope that’s explains it to you.
So essentially the only difference is that for one, the brand ASKS you to speak and for the other, the brand does NOT ask you to speak?
What I mean by that is, so if there is no communication (i.e. agreement) between you and a brand (other than your shipping info of course) – then that “sponsorship” does not count as a payment? For me that doesn’t really make much sense, because I see it as a sponsorship either way. It’s free product. You were paid in product. Regardless of the fact that it’s a new/old release, whether you agreed to speak about it or not, whether the brand asked you/not, whether you consented to being sent the product or not. By virtue of the fact that it’s in your hands and you didn’t pay for it, SHOULD make it count as a sponsorship. Is that not so? So these ‘unwritten rules’ of sponsorship transparency/disclosure should apply across the board – for the sake of consistency. I hope you get me.
But I think my general conclusion on the matter is that disclosure is only important if the sponsorship is in the form of money. Because with all the products that are sent out, what if you personally cannot keep up with who you agreed to review and who you didn’t agree to speak about. And secondly, product and “exposure” do not pay the bills. So now brands will start being comfortable not paying content creators because “product is enough”, and you would have credited them in your content, given them free advertising and driven a whole lot of traffic to their pages. I mean, I’m not taking away the fact that “#ad” is inline with our consumer protection act – all I’m saying is that it allows brands to exploit freelancers who work independently.
Sorry for the essay, but this was a really interesting + engaging blogpost!
Haha no stress about the ‘essay’
I disagree that free product is payment. Speak to people you respect in the beauty industry. I respect people like Candice-Lee of In My Bag or Cynthia Gwebu. Ask them their opinion.
My details on a PR list does not guarantee ANY brand free exposure. I speak about products that I would like to speak about. Furthermore, I do not work in exchange for product. Because you’re right – it does not pay bills. I started blogging in 2010, there weren’t many blogs & I most certainly didn’t treat it as a business. I did posts in exchange for product – but I have learnt; PR/ brands have learnt how to work with us. And essentially I haven’t done it in many years. That being said, many people (even well known bloggers/influencers) do work like this & that is why it is relevant to my post.
I can agree to disagree on this one.
Thank you, I like how you show examples to us.
Love this post!
Interesting read. Thank you
I think this is such an important topic, and I am so glad you have written this post.
As a blogger, I always state whether an item has been sent to me, whether that was an agreement or not. I don’t think it is a must, but I think it is nice to share this information. Because as a reader I would want to know whether someone was paid money for the feature, or had a trade exchange, or even just sent the item without agreement(because they didn’t buy it with their own money). I don’t think it should be tagged as ad or sponsored, but I think it is nice to share with the reader that you were sent these products for consideration.
totally share the same sentiments with you. listen i haven’t read a blog in years! your posts are just so easy to read!