November 13, 2019: FTC publishes “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers”; Instagram tests removing “Likes” in the U.S.; Venture capitalists and social media platforms continue to invest in the influencer economy; TikTok tests self-serve ad platform; Google and Facebook release new advertising features.
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Your Guide to FTC Disclosures on Sponsored Posts
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers,” a new ad disclosure guide for influencers that outlines when and how influencers should disclose their partnerships with brands.
From a regulatory standpoint, nothing. In other words, the guidelines/rules themselves are the same ones that the FTC shared previously – the only difference being how they are being shared. With a goal of making the guide more “influencer-friendly,” the newly published guide uses simplified language, condensed wording, fresh examples, and includes photos and videos intended for sharing.
When do influencers need to disclose?
Any time an individual (influencer or not) has received money or product or has any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand, there needs to be a disclosure. For instance, even if a brand has sent product(s) to an influencer as a “gift” without any post agreement, if the influencer shares the product(s) on any platform, they must also include a disclosure.
Where do influencers need to disclose?
People need to be able to see, hear (if applicable), and understand the disclosure. For Instagram, this means including disclosures in the first line of the caption and on Instagram Stories, and on Snapchat, this means superimposing disclosures over the image/video and giving viewers enough time to read it. For longer-form video content (i.e., IGTV, YouTube, Facebook videos, TikTok), disclosures must be able to be seen and heard in the video – not just in the description. Lastly, for livestreams (i.e., Twitch), disclosures must be repeated periodically so viewers who only see part of the stream will see/hear the disclosure.
What do influencers need to say to disclose?
The FTC doesn’t provide required copy; however, they recommend using simple and clear language, and suggest using terms like “advertisement,” “ad,” and “sponsored.” Additionally, while hashtags are not required, they do suggest including a hashtag such as #ad or #sponsored to support the disclosure. Notably, influencers are told not to use vague or confusing terms like “sp,” “spon,” “collabs,” “thanks,” or “ambassador.” Even if the platform has a disclosure tool (i.e., Instagram’s Branded Content Ads), the influencer still needs to follow appropriate protocol and include the disclosure on their end, as well.
For the first time, the FTC has shifted away from legal jargon in an attempt to speak the language of influencers. Previously, the rules around disclosures for influencer marketing were murky (at best), which could be why the FTC has historically been somewhat lenient around enforcing its policies.
Now, with the creation of an easy-to-read guide made specifically for influencers, it’s likely that the FTC could come down harder on those who break the rules because now there are virtually no excuses. As such, for influencers and brands, it’s now more important than ever to familiarize yourself with the document.
Like It Or Not: Instagram Tests Hiding Likes in U.S.
Last Friday, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri announced that the company will start hiding “likes” on some U.S. posts.
What should I expect?
Accounts that are part of this test can still like/comment on posts and see likes/comments on their own posts; they just can’t see other users’ likes. Instead, under the post where likes would typically appear, they will now see “[name of Instagram account] and others.” These metrics, however, will still be available on the back-end (for both business and non-business accounts), meaning they will still be able to be reported to brands.
ICYMI: Instagram has already been testing this in seven other countries since July. It’s important to note that this change will not affect everyone on Instagram. In fact, if the test in the U.S. is at all similar to the tests in the other seven countries, the majority of accounts will not be affected.
What’s Instagram saying?
“The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them… We will make decisions that hurt the business [in the short term] if they’re good for people’s well-being and health – because it has to be good for the business over the long-term.” – Adam Mosseri
This is not the end of “Likes” as we know it. Not only will creators still have access to these analytics in detail, but marketers will also likely still ask for them. However, what will probably happen is an improvement in the quality of engagement Instagram posts do generate, as people will be less likely to simply “Like” a photo because they see that thousands of others already have, and creators are less likely to remove posts that don’t immediately hit benchmark.
Even though Cardi B may not agree with Instagram’s latest test (okurrrr), this is a good thing for our industry as it will encourage marketers (and influencers) to rely less on vanity metrics like engagements to determine campaign/post effectiveness and lean on better methods of measurement like brand or sales lift. Even though influencers will still have access to insights on their posts, the need for a platform to aggregate and analyze those metrics will be even more important.
Venture Capitalists and Social Media Platforms Invest in Creator Economy
What are the VCs up to?
As influencers continue to find new ways to contribute to the overall growth of the influencer economy through the launch of their own products, services, and brands, venture capitalists, too, have found new ways to contribute and support influencers in these ventures. While VCs continue to invest in influencer-to-consumer (ITC) brands, an increasing number of VCs are also beginning to invest in influencer-to-influencer (ITI) brands (i.e., Cameo, MoeAssist, Patreon), created to help influencers further “monetize their influence and manage their lives.” Jamison Hill of Bain Capital Ventures calls this “phase three” of the influencer economy.
You mentioned social media platforms?
Yes, we did. Facebook, specifically, announced three new features for creator monetization.
Expanded Brands Collabs Manager: With the expansion, creators in more than 40 countries can now apply to access the tool. To qualify for the tool, creators need at least 1,000 followers and one or more of the following over the last two months: 15,000 engagements on posts, 180,000 minutes viewed, or 30,000 one-minute views that are three minutes or longer.
Enhancements to Creator Studio – Traffic Source Insights & Instagram Features: In Creator Studio, Facebook has added Traffic Source Insights, which allows creators to see how their content is distributed across Facebook in order to optimize for each source. Within this view, creators will be able to see video watch-time and retention metrics for a page across four sources: Followers, Shares, Recommended, and Paid. Additionally, Facebook has also added “Tag Instagram” accounts so that creators can tag feed photos and photos-within-carousel posts all within one place.
Updates to Stars: Facebook has introduced new mobile tools enabling creators to see who has sent them Stars for their live videos, including the top three Stars senders, in real time. Additionally, with Star Goals, creators can set a public goal for the number of Stars they’d like to receive so viewers can help creators to achieve their goals.
With both venture capitalists and social media platforms continuing to support influencers in their brand-building ventures – from technology and monetary standpoints – it’s likely we will see more and more influencers launch their own brands, whether that be in the influencer-to-consumer (ITC) or influencer-to-influencer (ITI) spaces.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the best thing a brand can offer to an influencer is access to resources, business knowledge/acumen, and most of all, experience. For the majority of influencers launching their own brands, this is the first time they’ve ventured into the space. Brands can offer unique support because they’ve already done a lot of the things that influencers will have to do in order to successfully run businesses. Brands have the opportunity to host internal workshops, incubators, AMAs, and more to help steer influencers in the right direction.
TikTok Tests Self-Serve Ad Model and Expands Third-Party App Integrations
A leaked pitch deck from TikTok shows that the platform is testing a self-service version of its ad platform to reach a broader spectrum of advertisers as it expands its third-party app integrations.
Talk to me about its self-service ad platform.
According to a leaked version of TikTok’s ad deck, there are two models in beta testing right now – both of which are only being tested with European agencies. The first is your everyday cost-per-click (CPC) model and the second is an “optimized CPC” model where advertisers can bid with a cost-per-acquisition figure that they set and then pay for clicks. As part of this model, the platform claims that it can target ads to those who are most likely to convert to customers.
Also notable from the leaked deck is insight into TikTok’s lengthy list of third-party measurement partners (i.e., Nielsen, Kantar MillwardBrown, Doubleclick) to run brand and sales lift studies. Additionally, the deck includes mention of a TikTok Pixel, allowing brands to directly track and evaluate conversion results all within the platform.
And the app integrations? More than just Adobe?
Yes, TikTok has announced a “Share to TikTok” software development kit (SDK) that enables third-party apps to easily integrate with TikTok. Just like we covered last week with the Adobe Premiere Rush integration, these integrations mean creators can have more choice in the way they make content. In addition to Adobe, current integrations include Fuse.it, Medal.tv, Momento GIF Maker, PicsArt, PlotVerse, and Enlight Videoleap.
First and foremost, the pitch deck highlights TikTok’s attempt to legitimize itself by providing the measurement abilities that advertisers have been asking for from other platforms. Notably, pixel conversion tracking shows how fast the platform is learning from the mistakes and achievements of its counterparts (this is something that took Facebook years to implement). Its ability to not only understand marketers’ needs, but also implement features relatively quickly shows promise for further marketer and creator-centric innovation down the line.
The move toward third-party app integration also harkens back to Vine (RIP), which enabled users to create content their way. For TikTok to diversify and increase the quality of content on the platform, third-party app integration is a step in the right direction in democratizing the content creation process.
Google and Facebook Prepare for Ho-Ho-Holiday Season
Just in time for the holiday shopping season, parent companies Google and Facebook have released new shopping features for advertisers on YouTube and WhatsApp.
Start with Google.
In an effort to make YouTube more “shoppable,” Google searches will now be served as targeted shopping ads on YouTube. With YouTube “Shopping” (yes, that is what it’s called), YouTube visitors who have searched for a product on Google will now be served ads based on their activity. Additionally, these ads have also become more interactive and will now show more actionable information under videos such as store location, interest forms, and calls-to-action. Initial beta tests have shown a 23 percent increase in conversions, and with Google reporting that 48 percent of shoppers say they’re open to buying from new retailers during the holiday season, it’s likely that this number will continue to increase.
And what’s up with WhatsApp?
Facebook’s WhatsApp Business app now enables businesses to showcase their products with product catalogs. These catalogs will provide information about the items such as locations, ratings and reviews, hours, and Facebook pages or websites, as well as product images.
This development enables the discovery of new brands and better facilitates eCommerce, which sets the foundation for Facebook’s WhatsApp Pay project that, in place of Libra, (who knows when or if that will ever be a thing) will now help establish in-platform buying.
Both Google and Facebook are making moves to enable shoppers to more easily purchase the products that they love from brands that they love and find new ones. Facebook, across all of its apps, is consistently trying to make it as easy as possible to buy products. Google, on the other hand, is utilizing its existing data to better target customers and execute ad strategies that create meaningful conversions. One may not be better than the other, but both provide social proof for the trend of platforms needing to constantly update and change to better meet consumers where they are.
As ad experiences become more customized, users may find that their shopping journeys are increasingly unique and personalized to them. It’ll be interesting to see the response to this over time. Will concerns over privacy bring about a toning down of hyper-targeted advertising? We’ll have to wait and see.