Does Instagram’s Paid Partnership feature damage influencer performance?

Last summer Instagram introduced its Paid Partnership feature. This followed a regulatory crackdown on influencers failing to signal to their followers where they’ve been paid to create content.

The Paid Partnership feature eliminates any ambiguity, allowing influencers to clearly signpost their paid posts, rather than adding ‘#ad’ or ‘#sp’ to the end of a post’s description.

In this post we compare the performance of sponsored content flagged using the paid partnership feature vs. traditional ad markers, such as ‘#ad’ and ‘sponsored’.

Who is using Paid Partnership?

To be eligible to use the Paid Partnership feature you have to have an Instagram verified account.

Adoption of this feature was fast in the first few months, reaching around 2.5% of all identified sponsored posts by November 2017. This chart plots usage relative to October 2017.

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The dip in usage in January was due to a seasonal fall in the total number of sponsored posts on Instagram. As a proportion of total sponsored Instagram posts, the number of Paid Partnerships has remained steady around around 2.5%.

Do Paid Partnerships posts perform differently?

In the UK Influencers are legally obliged to clearly flag brand sponsored posts. Before the advent of the Paid Partnerships feature, the only way they did this was by adding an ad marker to the end of a post’s title or description. The most common of these by far (around two thirds of all labelled sponsored posts) is ‘#ad’.

Here we show usage and average performance of the two most common ad markers, plus Paid Partnerships. The data are a random sample of 30k sponsored posts published over the past 6 months. We've bundled together other ad markers into an 'Other' category. This includes things like '#promo' and 'brand ambassador'. Note '#spon' includes similar ad markers, such as '#sp' and 'sponsored'.

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The average engagement rate on posts with traditional ad markers is around 2.5%. Controlling for influencer-specific performance differences, we find that posts with the Paid Partnership flag perform 20% worse (figure statistically significant).

Posts with the Paid Partnership flag perform 20% worse

Does this vary by vertical?

This drop off in performance varies by vertical. Here we see the effect is biggest in the Beauty vertical with a -27% drop off, and the smallest difference is in the Travel vertical at -9%

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This analysis suggests the Paid Partnership feature is negatively impacting post engagement. This is not conclusive. The feature is still new, and we haven’t controlled for other confounding factors such as the sponsoring brand or the time the post was published.

Time will tell whether adoption of this feature will become more widespread and how performance will vary.

CampaignDeus is the leading independent provider of influencer marketing campaign data for Instagram and YouTube. Our platform identifies and classifies brand sponsored influencer campaign performance metrics, tracking hundreds of thousands of posts.

We use this data to provide Brands & Agencies with industry insights across verticals, benchmark campaigns against vertical & competitor averages, and equip clients with in-depth reporting and recommendations on how to make campaigns more effective. Get in touch for more details.

Duncan Stoddard is the co-founder and Chief Data Officer of CampaignDeus. Previously a data scientist with DS Analytics, AlphaSights and media agency Mindshare. He specialises in statistical modelling, machine learning and data visualisation.