Last week's much-publicized letter from the FTC to influencers and marketers added to the negative connotations that are often associated with the word "sponsored." The letter called out some of the devious measures taken to hide sponsored posts from Instagram followers, such as concealing ad mentions among other hashtags.
Some of the negativity targeted towards sponsored posts is warranted. Celebrities and influencers haven't always clearly disclosed which posts are paid for by companies, and unfortunate mistakes have emphasized their transactional nature. You need only look at the #SponCon fails of Kim Kardashian and Scott Disick for proof.
But for many of those who are doing deals with brands, being an influencer is their only job. This means that posting sponsored content is not only par for the course, it's necessary for bringing home a paycheck. Unfortunately, influencers who do abide by the rules and denote branded content where appropriate can suffer from the mistakes of their colleagues.
Now, some are trying to create an open dialogue around what it means to be #sponsored in an effort to fight the stigma associated with it. This week, Fohr Card, an influencer marketing agency, sent 300 influencers it works with baseball caps that say #sponsored. So far, 60 of those individuals have worn the caps as a means to kick off conversations on Instagram and their blogs about branded content.
"By now I’m sure you know that bloggers, YouTubers and influencers make a majority of their income on sponsored posts through blog, social media, and YouTube placement," influencer Marianna Hewitt wrote in a blog post yesterday. "This is how we make a living. But don’t think that just because it's #sponsored, that it isn’t sincere, genuine, or well thought out. For me personally, it is even more curated than our other content to ensure that the posts never seem too commercial."
Hewitt goes on to say that while sponsored posts are essential for funding photography expenses, she only works with brands whose values align with her own brand.
"Part of the stigma with influencers [has come about] now that the opportunities are better and better and the money is greater and greater," James Ford, co-founder of Fohr Card, told Refinery29. "People think of it as selling out. It's harder to get annoyed at Vogue, because that's an organization. It's easier to be annoyed at an influencer because you might think, I have an Instagram account, too. So why aren't I getting paid to go to Bora Bora? "
As a consumer, it isn't a bad thing to be discerning when you see sponsored Instagram posts. But it seems a little unfair to judge influencers who are simply doing their jobs. Bring a healthy amount of skepticism to your scrolling, but keep an open mind, too. We're all hustling, whether we're wearing #sponsored baseball caps or not.
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