A recent chat with a friend brought up an interesting question about disclosure on Instagram, particularly in the case of food bloggers – should free meals, items and events be disclosed on Instagram, whether or not you cover them elsewhere (and disclose about them there)?
In short – yes. Obviously, we’re going to say you should disclose everything (you probably already know that we’re pretty passionate about disclosure in blogging) that you receive for “free”*
There are two places that this could be an issue on Instagram – in a standard post, and on Instagram Stories. Instagram Stories is much more in the moment than your standard posts, so it’s a little more understandable why you might forget to disclose, especially if you’re posting at the time of the event happening. You might want to pop a story up before you go to the event/start talking about a product, and perhaps one at the end of the collection of stories to just remind your viewers what’s going on – one at the start and one at the end is the bare minimum though because of the way that Instagram stories disappear after 24 hours.
With a normal post, there’s not really much of a reason not to briefly mention what went on – you plan out things like how your grid will look so it doesn’t take much more to plan out what to include in your caption.
Because it’s the right thing to do
The ASA is still pretty reactive in how they set guidelines, particularly in regards to social media, but as more people learn about the whole blogging/influencer industry, they learn that they can complain to the ASA if they don’t believe that something hasn’t been disclosed. While the ASA doesn’t have any powers, they do write about their findings, whether they are upheld or not, and this could potentially affect your earning potential – if the brand googles you and finds that you’ve been investigated, then they might choose to work with a blogger who hasn’t been investigated.
Because not everyone understands blogging
It might be difficult to imagine, but there are people out there who use Instagram who aren’t bloggers or influencers. If a users finds your post from places like Google searches, hashtags or venue pages, then they might not know that you sometimes receive items for free to review. Mentioning briefly (“I was invited to come and check out…” would be much more suitable in this case than a simple hashtag) why you’re getting something for “free” will help those users, and potentially persuade them to subscribe to your blog.
We talked a little about disclosure of affiliate links in Instagram in our huge disclosure post where we say it’s best to disclose each link on each relevant story where you use the swipe up feature, and the same should be considered when using Stories to talk about an event you go to – pop a little #gifted or #guestof(brand) in the corner so the viewers will know that you were invited to review it.
Because it can help brands find new bloggers to work with
PR companies are always looking for new bloggers to work with, particularly in regards to local events. If the company knows that a certain venue has been gifting meals to bloggers, then they could search through the venue tag to find people to approach – if you’re not disclosing, then they might not know you’re a blogger and/or might not want to work with you if you’re not disclosing.
What do you think – what’s the most effective way to disclose? How would you do it?
* Of course, as bloggers, we know nothing is really “free” but provided to you in the hope or expectation that you promote it through your various channels