According to Hopper HQ’s 2018 Instagram Rich List, Kylie Jenner earns a whopping $1-million dollars per sponsored Instagram post. Selena Gomez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kim Kardashian also topped this list, with per-post earnings of $800,000, $750,000 and $720,000 respectively. If these numbers feel unfathomable, consider that the Instagram influencer market is expected to explode into a $10-billion-dollar industry by 2020, according to estimates by AdWeek and MediaKix, and according to a 2019 study by Influencer Marketing Hub, 92% of those surveyed consider Influencer ads an effective form of marketing. So if you’re in the influencer game and have ramped up your reach and engagement, you’re likely keen to monetize your brand through advertising and paid sponsorships (though don’t expect Kardashian-level payouts).Whatever you’re earning on those paid posts, remember that your influence should come with some responsibility—and integrity. Here are five things to consider before you post that #ad.
1. Is it a good product?
Know what you’re promoting. Try it; experience it; learn about it. Followers tend to assume you’re personally endorsing the products you post, even if you don’t explicitly say “I love and use this product,” because you’re including them in the lifestyle narrative that is your Instagram account. Remember when Kendall Jenner, among others, came under, well, fire, for that pricey ($250,000) Fyre Festival post when she knew nothing about what it actually was (a huge fraud)? Or, when Oprah tweeted about loving Microsoft Surface tablet…from an iPad? We’re not saying that, just because you promote an Android, you have to stop using your Apple, but take some ownership of what you’re promoting, try it, like it, and believe in it.
Loving how @misslionhunter Musemo Handahu’s captions are personal, insightful and sincere (and clearly marked as an advertisement).
2. Could it alienate your audience?
Do some research. Know who you’re working with and what they stand for. Consider the brand and whether their values align with yours—especially if you share these beliefs on your channels. Have the company’s leaders famously stood out against basic rights you believe in? Are they steeped in environmental controversy? Assume all your followers are educated and ethical, because the ones who are will call you out in the comments, enlightening others, and compelling a slew of unfollows. Be ready to be held accountable for who you align yourself with—and associating yourself with the wrong message could cause you to lose credibility with your audience and even cost you future collaborations.
For his paid partnership with Fido, fashion blogger Syed Sohail (@theprepguy) marched in Toronto’s Pride parade, showcasing how the company’s values aligned with his own.
3. Does the post feel authentic?
Maintaining an authentic brand should outweigh the lure of money. A company may be willing to pay for content or send you products for free, but does their product align with who you are and why your readers follow you? A vaping ad, for example, might not suit your heathy living account; a video game ad might be out of place for a beauty blog; a furniture store ad just wouldn’t look right on a sports-focused page. Make sure that your sponsored posts are on-brand and align with your content and messaging.
This H&M post by fashion and lifestyle influencer Alexander Kenton Liang feels personal, genuine and perfectly aligned with his page.
4. Is it clearly marked as an ad?
Last year, celebrities from Ellen DeGeneres to DJ Khaled were officially warned by the US Federal Trade Commission to clearly identify paid posts. Legally—and ethically—you need to disclose every paid post or sponsorship by marking it as a paid partnership, #ad or #sponsored. Avoid hiding the hashtag in the middle of dozens of others, and make it more visible as the first or last hashtag in your list. It’s not only the law, but it’s also about integrity and it establishes trust with your readers.
Even though travel and fashion influencer Ania Boniecka’s caption is long and personal, it’s still clearly marked as an #ad.
5. What’s the ratio of #ads to authentic posts?
You wouldn’t watch a TV show that was mostly made up of advertisements, would you? When almost as many #ads as original content, followers become weary of your account and start to see it as a series of sales pitches rather than what they’re most often looking for: beautiful, funny, informative or inspiring images to inspire their lifestyle. Keep your account mostly original and unbiased, and your followers will remain engaged in your content rather than unfollowing you or skipping over your posts.
Decor, family and lifestyle influencer (and former Bachelorette!) Jillian Harris doesn’t post a lot of #ads, but when she does, they blend seamlessly with her brand.