Just recently, on the business blog, instagram shared an article called Why transparency matters introducing a new feature rolling out to all accounts in the next couple of weeks. The feature will allow users to clearly disclose when a post or story is created in paid partnership with a brand. The claim is that “community means clarity” but what it all comes down to, in my opinion, is authenticity.
We’ve all reached our tolerance levels with the invasive non-relevant sponsored content popping up between the supposed-to-be-real-friends posts (coming from Facebook) and the non chronological ones of the same 10% of users we have interacted with in the past. Will this collaboration disclosure make a difference in contributing to the sense of community we are all striving for? If a well known brand selling clothes approaches a 5 digit instagram user mostly focused on cars, will that transparency disclosure help the community building? I’ll silently roll my eyes whilst nobody’s watching, I promise. If you want, I’ll also wear sunglasses to make it less obvious. The truth is that we’ve all become numb to the concept of sponsored content without being aware of it and I believe that’s the result of the inability of saying no.
Saying no to branded collaborations that don’t quite fit the feed.
Saying no to product in exchange of content.
Saying no to ridiculous prices just because you’re starting out.
Saying no is harder than it sounds. There’s the whole social awkwardness, the fear of missing out an opportunity, the pressure of disappointing people, clients and, just to mention another one, it’s hard to say no to easy money – if you’re being paid with real money.
But what happens when you’re saying yes to virtually everything (or almost)? You loose credibility. I was researching for influencers (don’t get me started on that word) to recommend to a client for a specific project and, believe me, it was hard especially to find authentic content even if sponsored. I was scrolling through a specific account I had been following for years, and there it was. A series of pictures, over time, of brands that had nothing to do with the whole account. For the sake of this example, imagine a food-only account posting about shoes. Now multiply it for ‘x’ number of posts. You can imagine my reaction.
First, I blacklist the brand for having thought that the numbers of followers are the only factor that matters in this context. Then, I blacklist the user. I can justify the weird random non-relevant collaboration once, but I can’t possible justify it more than that.
Loosing respect and consequentially credibility for a short term win, over the long term impact of your reputation doesn’t seem like a good trade-off, even if the content is clearly disclosed as paid/sponsored.
Although quite dated, I still think these are great examples of sponsored content – all coming from the same source: Semaine. They were not thought for instagram, still, they would have worked. This video with Jemima Kirke, actress in GIRLS has been a long time favorite of mine. She’s seamlessly drawing with a Sharpie, and being an artist herself, seeing the permanent marker’s logo so prominent on the screen didn’t bother me at all – it was actually part of the story they were telling. (it’s a shame, more like a big missed opportunity, that you can’t buy a Sharpie in the shop section after the video ends) The collaboration fits and seems authentic. Another example that I love is the video with Camille Rowe, short and on point. More or less you know who she is or you might recognize her from the campaigns for Chloe or & Other Stories. She is a sensual creature and in this sponsored video with French fashion brand, Camille openly declares that she ‘Wants to be sexy’. What you see is how amazing those jeans look and you are immediately hooked in because it’s part of the story they are telling. The collaboration fits and seems authentic.