When you should put #ad, #gifted and #sponsored on your Instagram posts.

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I think it's important we are transparent with our audience.

For those of you that don’t know, my Mum use to be a police officer, so when it comes to law she kind of knows her stuff.  One day she was grumbling in the corner about people not labelling posts correctly, so I challenged her to investigate it and write about it. Her investigations are below. Please note this are her understanding of it and  please if you know different let us know. 

If there is one thing that perplexes me about the Bookstagram community, it’s how pretty much none of them put #ad in front of their posts, even when they clearly are or they clearly should.

I don’t think it’s that they are all a group of rule-breakers; I think it’s just that no one has told them when to and when not to.

Here is my understanding of it and I’m no expert, but I have listened avidly to podcasts that talk about this. I have listened to what the A.S.A has to say and gone through a lot of boring paperwork.

Also, we have on a few occasions got .this entirely wrong; hands up, it’s confusing for sure.

Also, note that the law in each country is different. In the UK we have some of the toughest laws, so pretty much if you stick to our rules you will be OK anywhere. And there are penalties for getting it wrong and you could get into trouble, named and shamed, which doesn’t sound cool, not to mention the lack of respect from your followers when you break their trust.

My understanding of it – any lawyers, please let me know if I’m wrong.

It seems to not boil down to money but to editorial control. If in any way there is an obligation to post, a day and time you have to post, a hashtag or discount code to use, anything, if the company/brand have in anyway suggested you do anything, it is an Ad.

1.Gifted products – this is the one I think is super-confusing. Anything gifted to you for tax purposes is considered income, so that’s the first thing to note. There seems to be three types of gifted products.

  • Gifted – I’ll send you this and see what you think. There is no mention of a post, discount code or using a particular hashtag. This is not sponsored or an ad but you should make it clear the item was gifted in the first few lines.

  • Gifted to you with discount codes for your followers. There is no obligation to post but a discount code for your followers if you do or a # to use. This needs to say ad at the beginning of the post, it doesn’t need a # unless you want to put it.

  • Gifted to you with an obligation to post – all your reps out there listen up. There may be a discount code or may not and a particular hashtag to use or not, but if there is an obligation to post this needs #ad at the front of the post.

I have tripped up on the last two at times but looking into it a bit more this is my conclusion.

2. Paid – it you are paid whatever the amount to post it must have #sponsored or #ad at the front of it. And they differ; #ad if they have made any suggestions or requirements. #sponsored if they just want to sponsor the content you are already posting.

And yes all this applies to books too.

So let me give you an example with Bronte’s #takingteawith series.

  1. Someone sends us some new style tea just because, no strings. We try the tea, love it and decide to include it. #gifted.

  2. The same tea company send us tea but ask us that if we use it, to use the #ourteaisthebestteaever and give us a code for 20% off their awesome tea. No money has exchanged hands. This is still an #ad.

  3. The same company, pleased with our previous posts now wants to pay us for our time... Yippee! They now want to send us their new range and this time there is a competition to win a lifetime’s supply of tea (I’m in), by commenting on the post and following the tea company. Still #ad.

  4. Now the tea company love us, we are the best of friends and they want to sponsor a whole year of our #takingteaseries. We are delighted, jumping around the front room; we may never have to work again! There is no requirement to use a hashtag discount code or even include the teas. We just keep creating content, but we put at the beginning of every post #sponsored by the Awesome Tea Company.

The #ad, #sponsored, #gifted must appear at the beginning or very close to, so the consumer knows they are consuming advertorial content. Hiding #ad in the hashtags is not good enough. Or putting it after the more button is not good enough.

Make sense?

Interesting enough too is that the A.S.A. doesn’t think that the paid partnership or paid collaboration is enough to meet the guidelines, even in that neat little thing that Instagram added.

Now you can of course ignore this if you want but I’m not willing to take the chance.

A lot of people say Instagram doesn’t show sponsored or ad posts to as many people and in some ways is unfriendly to them. I can simply tell you that isn’t true; some of our sponsored/advertorial posts have done the best out of all our posts. Often it’s because most people’s sponsored posts are just done so badly that they don’t do well. And yes some people don't engage with advertorial content so the likes may be done but its not the algorithm.

We should do sponsored/ advertorial posts as well as we can for ourselves, our followers and the brand that have paid us or given us product. The three Queens in my opinion, those that do sponsored posts really well and I try my best to emulate are All That is She, Sienna and I  and The Life of Aivax

So over to you, now you know do you follow the guidelines or break them?

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