Influencer marketing in the Instagram World – Do honest endorsements still exist?


The world of Instagram advertising is an interesting and allusive one, particularly when it takes the form of influencer endorsements and sponsored content. When a popular user incorporates a product into their content it’s likely to stir a strong reaction, which can be good or bad depending on if consumers feel it is real.

But why is this? Is this issue more than a simple war between Team Artificial and Team Authentic?

PR Account Executive and resident Instagram afficionado, Lucy Slater, breaks down some keys aspects in the complex relationship between being a user, being an advertiser and being ‘#Instafamous’, and from this defines something that could become the biggest trend of this year.

Influencer marketing in the Instagram World – Do honest endorsements still exist?

Lucy Slater, PR Account Executive

“Instafamous’ feeds have shifted from giving me Life Envy to constantly promoting lifestyle products that I’ve always been sceptical about.”

When Instagram was first launched in 2010, it was primarily used as a social platform for people to create a photo and video feed. Now with over 800 million users, Instagram has become a prime platform for talent, brands and businesses to promote themselves in a way that Twitter or Facebook can’t.

Being an avid Instagram user, I’ve wasted so many hours scrolling through the ‘Instafamous’ world and the people who have built an empire around them. From the constant holiday snaps on white sandy beaches, to the meals that look so good no one would dare eat them, people have managed to accumulate millions of followers, brand partnerships and even celebrity status from just one Instagram page.

Feeds that plant seeds of doubt

But in recent years the ‘Instafamous’ feeds have taken a shift from giving me Life Envy to constantly promoting lifestyle products like chewy hair vitamins or UV teeth whitening kits.

I’ve always been sceptical about whether these products have been endorsed because they truly work, or because it’s just an agreement between the influencer and the brand? Are they allowed to give an honest review? Can they use the products for a substantial amount of time before promoting to see if they have any effect?

All these factors have flipped influencer marketing on its head and turned what used to be a valuable source of marketing, into something consumers are starting to doubt.

What’s sponsored and what isn’t?

Now, more brands than ever have experienced the benefits of influencer marketing and the power that the ‘Instafamous’ people have on consumers, making it tricky to decipher what has been sponsored and what hasn’t; 61% of UK consumers now say they don’t think brands are being transparent about how they use influencers to promote their products online.

As a brand, targeting an influencer who is on brand and already talking about similar products can be the easiest way to convert a simple Instagram post into sales. However, taking advantage from this through something as quick and easy as a sponsored Instagram post can open doors to a consumer nightmare if it isn’t executed in the correct way.

As Instagram endorsements surged, so did the distrust in the regulation of influencer marketing, and as a consumer, it should be made clear when someone has been paid to endorse a product, even if it’s a simple #ad at the end of a post. Throughout 2017, products such as Flat Tummy Tea and Diamond Whites teeth whitening were reported and banned by the advertising watchdog for failing to tag the post as an ad.

The biggest trend we see this year.

As rules and regulations have been made stricter on celebrities and influencers’ posting about products, consumers are calling for 2018 to be “The Year of Honest Endorsements”. Having clarity on sponsored posts made by an influencer and having an honest review on products that would usually be categorised as a ‘fad’ could be the biggest trend we see this year.

What makes their opinion so important?

But even with the call for honesty from Instagram influencers, what makes their opinion so important from anyone else’s? For Instagram influencers they can be reached on a more personal level from celebrities, but have enough of a social expertise to feel like we’re receiving an authoritative opinion.

Word of mouth has always been powerful thing, and Instagram influencers take this to the next level by almost preaching to a choir of followers who have built a trust for that particular person.

Why should they follow?

I follow many influencers for a certain reason. I will trust a good makeup artist for a review on a new eyeshadow pallet, and I will trust a personal trainer on what protein is best post workout. However, on Instagram there’s a huge amount of distrust for reality stars or people who have been quickly thrust into the media’s attention.

For a brand endorsement to work well through Instagram, the influencers themselves must offer a talent, service or show expertise in a certain way. It is this service that gains the loyal followers that brands latch on to, and making sure that sponsored posts are in-line with the influencer’s brand is key for both brand and influencer to get what they want out of the endorsement.

After all, it’s those loyal followers that created the “instafamous” world and without them none of this would be possible.