Background: Launched in 2004, Facebook is a social networking website where users can post comments, share pictures and links to news or other content, play games, shop, livestream and chat in real time. Users can control whether they would like to share content publicly or with a select group of friends and family. As of June 2017, Facebook had 2.2 billion users.
Influencers background: After YouTube, Facebook is one of the most lucrative platforms for top influencers. According to data crunched by influencer analytics platform Captiv8, influencers with 7 million followers or more on Facebook are able to command up to $187,000 (Dh686,290) per campaign.
Advertising policies: Facebook defines branded content as: “Any post — including text, photos, videos, Instant Articles, links, 360 videos and Live videos — from media companies, celebrities or other influencers that features a third party product, brand or sponsor.” Users can target an audience and key in the amount they want to spend.
On March 30, 2017, Facebook made it mandatory for publishers and influencers to tag the marketer in the post, in an effort to ensure transparency. Once tagged, marketers are notified of the post and can access high-level post insights, including engagement and reach metrics, along with total spend on the tagged post. They also have the option of sharing and boosting the post to drive additional value.
Facebook’s Advertising Policies provide guidelines about which ads are acceptable and unacceptable on the site. When advertisers place their orders, their ads are reviewed against these policies, then approved or rejected. The content must also meet Facebook’s Community Standards — this highlights what type of posts can be shared on Facebook, and what kind of posts may be reported and removed.
Here are a few of Facebook’s advertising policies:
■ Videos and other similar ad types must not use overly disruptive tactics, such as flashing screens.
■ Excessive text in ad images may result in your ad reaching fewer people or not running at all. Try to use little or no image text when possible.
■ Ads must not contain content that exploits controversial political or social issues for commercial purposes.
■ Ads must not contain profanity or bad grammar and punctuation. Symbols, numbers and letters must be used properly without the intention of circumventing our ad review process or other enforcement systems.
■ See other rules here: https://www.facebook.com/policies/ads
Background: Snapchat was launched in 2011. It is both a messaging platform and a social network, and only exists as a mobile app. Users can ‘chat’ with friends by sending them photos or videos up to 10 seconds long. The social network sees 187 million active Snapchat users globally, with an average of 30 minutes spent on the app everyday.
Influencers: Until recently, sponsored content on Snapchat has been murky for influencers. The platform does not have strict rules for content creators to abide by, and it is difficult to find misleading content, since posts automatically disappear within 24 hours. But once US-based Federal Trade Commission (FTC) introduced its guidelines for social media marketing in 2017, influencers began marking their posts with hashtags such as #paid, #ad and #sponsored to indicate that their posts were paid for by brands.
After the third quarter of 2017, which saw Snap’s share price plummeting by 18 per cent and its user growth slowing to 2.9 per cent, Snapchat announced two new advertising features to attract social influencers and content creators. With the first, ‘Promoted Stories’, brands can create longer-form ads made up of three to ten photos and videos, live on Stories, and boosted to everyone on Snapchat in a selected country. Second, the ‘Augmented Reality Trial’ ads give users the opportunity to interact with a virtual product overlaid on the real world, through the lens of a smartphone camera. Both are clearly marked as paid posts.
Advertising: Snapchat ads are 10-second videos that appear in between stories, articles in the Discover section and during Snapchat Live features. Brands can also include a ‘Swipe up’ option to link back to a mobile website, article or app install ad.
Since Snapchat caters to very young users, advertisers are responsible for ensuring that their ads are suitable for Snapchatters aged 13 and above, in each geographic area where the ads run. All ads displayed on Snapchat must be full-screen video ads that display vertically in portrait mode.
The social network also has community guidelines that must be followed.
The following ad content is prohibited on Snap:
■ Content that promotes Snapping and driving, or otherwise encourages dangerous behaviour
■ Content that demeans, degrades, or shows hate towards a particular race, gender, culture, country, belief, or towards any member of a protected class
■ Shocking, sensational, or disrespectful content
■ Deceptive, false, or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers, or business practices
■ See other rules here: https://www.snap.com/en-US/ad-policies
Background: Twitter started out as a micro-blogging service in 2006, and quickly grew into a social messaging tool. With conversations that happen in real-time, within a tweet limit of 280 characters, it is popular for sharing news and entertainment-related content. As of 2017, the social network had 328 million monthly active users.
Influencers background: Until recently, only brands and public figures or celebrities were eligible for a verified account status (blue tick) on Twitter. However, with the rise of social influencers, Twitter opened up applications to regular people, who have a solid public following. For influencers with 50,000 to 500,000 followers, the average price tag for a tweet is $400 (Dh1,470), according to influencer analytics platform Captiv8. If their followers are in the range of three to seven million, they can charge $30,000 (Dh110,187) for a twitter post.
Advertising: Engagement rates for Twitter campaigns grew by 151 per cent in 2016, according to the social network’s revenue report, with the platform attributing much of its success to the popularity of its video ads.
The platform offers highly customisable ad formats — from promoted videos to in-stream ads to sponsored content — and, like Facebook, allows users to choose the target audience and the amount they want to spend. Twitter ads can be broken down into three main categories:
Promoted accounts: This type of ad essentially places the influencer/brand front and centre, in the audience’s “Who to Follow” sections.
Promoted trends: Using a branded hashtag, users can encourage clicks and followers by pushing a relevant promotion, event or announcement.
Promoted tweets: Consider this as a tiny billboard for a target audience. The goal is to drive clicks, which translate into more followers and leads.
But as with other social platforms, Twitter has certain restrictions and guidelines it expects users to follow, which can be found here: https://business.twitter.com/en/help/ads-policies
This popular photosharing app was launched in 2010. In 2017, Instagram reached 800 million monthly active users. It became a poplar hotspot for influencers to share pictures and recommendations for things like makeup, art, food and travel.
Influencers background: According to marketing company Mediakix, which specialises in Instagram marketing, the total advertiser spending on Instagram influencers in 2017 amounted to almost £750 million (Dh3.65 billion), the figure was projected to double by 2019.
However, it was noticed that many influencers were not using transparent methods while advertising products and passing them off as positive product reviews that misled followers and increased sales.
In April 2017, the Federal Trade Commission sent out a warning letter to more than 90 influential Instagram users reminding them to clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands.
Advertising: To tackle this, Instagram launched a “Paid Partnership with [business partner]” tag to make it easier for creators to highlight sponsored posts in their feeds. Creators and brands with access can find the tool in the Advanced Settings section when creating a post.
Here are some tips to note:
■ Make your disclosures of commercial relationships and disclaimers prominent and easy to understand. Hashtags like #affiliate are not enough. Hashtags like #ad or #sponsored are better or use precursors at the beginning of the Instagram post like Affiliate or Sponsored Post. Be mindful of anything that is potentially misleading or confusing. For example, if you only put it #ad at the end, it will likely be considered misleading.
■ Avoid providing reviews that are disguised as being from impartial source when you have received some form of compensation (including product).
■ If a business gives you a free product with the expectation that you’ll promote or discuss the product on Instagram, you have to disclose it.
■ Disclose in your Instagram Stories by adding the #ad hashtag somewhere visibly in your story.
■ More information on branded content on Instagram can be found here: https://business.instagram.com/a/brandedcontentexpansion
Background: Founded in 2005, YouTube has arguably become the biggest online video platform worldwide. It features user-generated and corporate media content that includes music videos, video blogs, short original videos, gaming videos, instructional and educational videos, films and television clips and much more.
Influencers background: The website has since grown to become a powerful money-making tool, with almost 1.5 billion users worldwide. On average, brands pay around $2,000 (Dh7,345) per 100,000 followers.
Advertising: YouTube recently modified their approach to urge brands to work through Google’s sales team for deals. YouTube has improved transparency by allowing users to add an optional text disclosure statement to any video campaign.
If you’re working with a YouTube influencer, ask the influencer to go to their video manager in Creator Studio to complete the process. Look for the Content Declaration section at the bottom right and check the box if the video contains paid promotion.
Any time you have received free products, been paid or received stuff in order to make a video. If you’ve been paid, make it clear you’ve been paid; if you’ve been given free stuff, make it clear you’ve been given free stuff.
Don’t hide the disclosure away in lengthy video descriptions or in the last 10 seconds of a video — be clear and upfront about it. For example, put the disclosure at the top of the video description and make a verbal disclosure in the video itself. Best practice would be to include a disclosure in the video title/thumbnail, so viewers can identify an ad before they click on the video.
More on Youtube paid product placements: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/154235
What should marketers do when there are neither formal disclosure tools nor clear guidelines?
The advertising industry has some disclosure best practices that apply to influencer campaigns regardless of platform. Based on t his informal list and suggestions from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), marketers should follow these guidelines.
1) Use the right hashtags: According to the FTC, #ad or #sponsored are the preferred hashtags for sponsored content campaigns. While other hashtags like #sp and #partner are popular, the FTC notes that it’s too easy for these terms to be misunderstood or simply ignored by followers.
2) Tag the Sponsor in Branded Posts: Creators should always tag the brand account if the social channel allows it. On platforms like Instagram or Facebook, the tagging features for sponsored content are much more robust. However, nearly every social platform enables some method for linking to the sponsoring brand’s account, typically using the “@[brand name]” signifier.
3) Disclose Early: Don’t force a user to scroll down or click through to view a sponsored post disclosure. It should be the first thing followers see.