As an Instagram influencer — someone with a following in a particular niche, such as fashion or fitness — you already know how to make your fans feel like your friends. But when you start making money through that audience, the relationship can change.
When you include paid posts from sponsors in your Instagram feed, keeping the trust you’ve built with your followers while satisfying your business partners can be tough. Here are a few guidelines to help keep everyone happy.
1. Honesty is the best policy — and the law
The Federal Trade Commission requires that you let your followers know when you’re getting paid. The agency called out deceptive advertising practices used by both influencers and marketers as recently as April.
“Make it easy to understand that you have a business relationship with this product,” says Mamie Kresses, senior attorney in the FTC’s division of advertising practices. Your sponsored content should have a disclosure that proclaims your partnership high up in the caption.
There are no specific language requirements, just make it clear. Don’t bury it in a sea of hashtags or think that tagging the company’s account is sufficient. It may not feel natural to start a caption with #ad or say something like “This post is sponsored by [company name]” at the beginning of your post. But it’s the most transparent way to inform your audience — and the government — of your relationship with the brand.
2. Look out for shady sponsors
“A marketer has a duty to make truthful claims about what a product can or cannot do,” Kresses says.
Are there studies to back up the claim that a certain lipstick lasts 48 hours or that a tea will help you lose 5 pounds and keep it off? If it’s a health or fitness supplement, what side effects are there? Be sure you get all this information from your sponsor and disclose anything you think may be relevant to your audience — even if it’s not pretty.
If this sounds like a lot to worry about, here’s a good rule of thumb: Partner only with brands whose products you would buy on your own.
3. Don’t buy your friends
Your sponsors have a right to honesty, too.
For some people seeking sponsorship deals, it can be tempting to boost the size of an audience artificially. However, companies can see through it. They tend to look at engagement levels more than follower count when deciding whether to work with you.
“If you look at an account and they have 50,000 followers but they’re only getting 20 comments, a lot of those followers are probably fake,” says James Winter, director of marketing at Revfluence, a company that provides software to brands working with influencers.
So if you’re trying to attract more or better partners, work on creating an engaged community with the audience you have.
Making money on Instagram is relatively new territory, so be sure to keep yourself informed on new regulations and rules. With diligence, you can maintain healthy relationships with both partners and followers.