Hot topic in the nail world recently- ads. Specifically of the instagram variety. If you’re not on instagram or have missed out on the time of day when all the big accounts post their ads (for an hour and then delete it), you may be a bit out of the loop. But for everyone else what started as a couple comments/rants here and there has slowly started to boil over and I thought I’d give my thoughts on the whole situation since so many of you emailed and requested it of me. Alright, that’s a joke, y’all don’t give a crap what I think and no one emailed me but it’s my blog and whateva, I do what I want! (Yeah, Cartman is my spirit animal.)
First, let’s get this out of the way- I have absolutely nothing against bloggers or Instagrammers (is that a word? If it is, it’s not insta-grammatically correct. Ha, I crack myself up) making money from what they do. I know some people don’t like to hear this, but blogging is a lot of work that I never really realized until I was on the other side of it. It really can be like a second full-time job and is often thankless- that review of a new collection that you skimmed through the photos on and closed the window in 30 seconds without a ‘like’ or ‘comment’ (not that our silent stalkers aren’t appreciated, we love you too but it’s nice when you come out of the bushes) possibly took that blogger 6 hours to write, swatch, photograph, edit, promote, etc.
And unlike fashion and mommy bloggers, paid sponsorship opportunities directly in the beauty niche are extremely few and far between. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that I’ve taken a sponsored post or social share here or there- some have been beauty related (like a beautiful unicorn) while others were maybe not-so-much (unless being Mugen-related counts). What’s the difference between those ads and the ones being complained about? One thing…
If you aren’t a blogger or instagrammer (okay, that is so weird to type out, from here on out I’m using the term blogger to mean both), you may not know but in the US, it is legally required by the FTC that a relationship with a brand be disclosed, whether that’s a press sample (a product given for free in hopes of a review), a sponsored post (where a person is paid cash money for a post or social share) or an affiliate link/code (where a person makes a percentage if you purchase using that link/code). This is why many bloggers have a Disclosure page on their blogs (like myself, haaaaay) to explain what the various phrases they use in their posts (press sample, sponsored, etc.) mean. (On social media, properly disclosed posts usually include hashtags like #ad or #spon.)
What a properly disclosed post means to you (the reader) is that you’re aware and informed while checking out a review or a post from that blogger. Does a blogger having received a polish as a press sample mean that their review isn’t honest? Not at all, and I’ve touched on that before. But what it means is that you’re aware that the blogger received that polish at no cost- whether you trust that particular blogger to do an honest review in that situation is up to you. However, if you were under the assumption that the blogger purchases everything they review for themselves, you probably wouldn’t think as hard about if you trust them or not. When you see a post that’s disclosed as sponsored, you are 100% aware that the company paid the blogger directly for placement on that blog and that the post is likely going to be just an ad for the company itself (at least that’s how I personally view sponsored posts). Again, the difference with disclosing that is you know going into it the relationship that blogger has with the brand- you are aware and informed. This is why people aren’t generally bothered or feel duped by sidebar google adsense ads- they know that they are ads and can choose to ignore them if they want.
You may note up there that again, disclosing is legally required by the FTC. Problem is…it’s not always enforced. Did any of you check out this article recently about the Lord & Taylor campaign thumbing it’s nose at FTC disclosure guidelines? It’s a lot better than this rambling mess that I’m typing out right now so go read it but please promise to come back or I’ll get lonely. Now, even if the FTC guidelines were regularly enforced, they only apply to the US anyways. However, legally required or not, enforced or not, every blogger with even a shred left of integrity should be disclosing whether they are forced to or not.
Okay, so now that you know the basics (Could I BE any more tl;dr?), here’s the problem- many accounts on instagram have been financially compensated to post ads and are not disclosing this at all. Certainly in the beginning, I believe some bloggers/IGers were unaware of the requirements. Most people (even those now earning money from it) began this as a hobby and may not have taken the time to research the requirements at first. A few of the accounts who did not disclose originally have started doing so, which is great!
The problem is that many are still not. Worse, they delete any comments about disclosing so they are aware and making the choice not to disclose. They are posting their ads in such a way as to make their followers believe that they are organically endorsing these products- if you know about this kind of thing it’s usually easy to spot, but many non-bloggers are not aware at all and that’s an issue. Check out these non-disclosed posts for an example of what I’m talking about (and I’m not trying to individually call anyone in particular out, these were just a couple of accounts that came to mind first to grab screencaps from)-
This is pretty frequently not disclosed on IG and it’s a variety of brands. Some of these posts may just be press samples (which should still be disclosed if you’re only on instagram) but I suspect a lot are sponsored.
This one drives me insane because I have seen so many people actually download it and start using it after the big accounts started up with their non-disclosed postings.
They even reached out to me….just for S&G I emailed back to see what their rate was, and this was the reply I received (EDIT: Just censoring out the employee’s last name and phone number as Snupps actually emailed me saying they were okay with the post but to please remove that info which I’m cool with. Maybe they learned something from the post 😛 We’ll see…..):
Now, I’m not a big-time instagrammer, I only have a little under 8k followers so I’m sure these other accounts are being offered more than $5 a post. At least….I really hope they are.
FIT TEA/DETOX TEA/FIT GIRLS GUIDE
I didn’t get a chance to pull a screencap of one of these (these are typically the ones that only stay up for an hour on the account before being deleted) but I did pull one from the actual company’s instagram that will give you a good idea- usually when these are posted it’s a photo of a girl (and NOT the actual IGer) holding the tea with a caption such as “this girl loves her fit tea” which is (IMO) even more misleading than the other two types.
Now, there’s another layer of this that I’m not going to get into since this post is long enough already, but a lot of people have expressed concern particularly with the fit/detox tea as it’s faddish, potentially harmful and a lot of the followers of these big accounts are teenage girls. I definitely think that has some merit to it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
So again, to sum everything up- I don’t think there is anything wrong with making money from something you spend many hours (+ your own money) doing, but be responsible about it. Disclose properly and consider what you’re endorsing. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the majority of people don’t mind a little ‘commercial break’ from the content as long as they aren’t being misled about it.
I hope this post has been helpful to those of you who are NOT in the blogging/IG world and that you can now hopefully spot this kind of thing and are able to be aware and informed about who you’re supporting and what you’re purchasing. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave ’em in the comments!
Aaaaand from another reader (thanks @aggieyoda!). My post was also directly under a tea ad in her feed tonight (click the photo to make it bigger):