Does Using #ad Hurt Your Engagement?

Does Using #ad Hurt Your Engagement?

Are platforms limiting influencers sponsored content? Or is there another explanation as to why sponsored content may not perform as well as organic content?
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by Kelly Stone
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Oct 12, 2021
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We often hear rumors that Instagram is limiting organic reach for creators' sponsored content to spur investment in advertising. While we certainly agree that social platforms want their check, this trend is rumored to occur across platforms. Are platforms limiting influencers sponsored content? Or is there another explanation as to why sponsored content may not perform as well as organic content?

It is potentially hurting your engagement, but it has nothing to do with Instagram

As it turns out, academia has been working on this question for a while now. When consumers recognize something as an advertisement, we naturally draw on our knowledge of persuasion and advertising. This is essentially the logic behind the regulations set in place by the FTC for influencer marketing. You can check those out in more detail on their website here. Disclosures like #ad are supposed to help consumers discern what is an advertisement vs. when someone is discussing a product organically with no financial relationship with the brand.

How does recognition of advertising impact engagement?

Researchers have found that activation of a consumer's knowledge about advertising lowers electronic word of mouth (Boerman et al, 2017). This study measures electronic word of mouth (eWOM) through intent to share, recommend, or comment on a Facebook post or what we typically consider engagement. Other studies have found that the wording of the disclosure is also important in how consumers recognize advertising, with "paid ad" or "sponsored" leading to higher recognition of a post as advertising compared to no disclosure or "sp" (Evans et al, 2017). Similar to the work by Boerman et al, they find that advertising recognition and recalling disclosure can negatively impact eWOM. Since recognizing something as an advertisement can cue our brain to be more cognizant of a message intending to persuade us, we may become more critical of the message.

Does that mean you should avoid disclosures or use "sp" instead?

Nope! Both of these are actually violations of the guidelines from the FTC. Not to mention, making advertising campaigns unclear could harm the trust your audience has in your recommendations! There should never be confusion amongst your audience as to whether your content is paid vs. unpaid. Maintaining a consistent method of disclosing your relationship with brands may help them better understand what is or is not an advertisement.

How can you combat the impact of advertising recognition?

Ensure that any partnerships you agree to are well aligned with your community goals and values! Research by R. De Cicco et al., (2020) suggests that this congruence between a creator's personal brand and their brand partner leads to a more positive reaction from the audience. However, this can also limit ad recognition due to the natural fit within the organic content theme. To ensure advertising recognition a clear and prominent disclosure must be included (and to meet those FTC requirements!).
Do you experience lower engagement on your sponsored content?