Using Instagram influencers is an incredibly valuable strategy to grow awareness and trust in your brand. There has been an 83% year on year growth in influencer marketing spend in the US and Canada. Notable brands such as Estee Lauder, Vice and Unilever have all committed increasingly larger budgets towards the activity in recent months.

Spend is increasing and now the rules are tightening up. Social media posts which promote a product or service must be labelled clearly as advertising. In the past this has been a grey area and there has been much conflicting information about the rules.

Businesses are increasingly looking for ways to work with niche Instagram users with engaged and loyal communities. Influencers create quality content such as Stories, videos and flatlays to influence their followers in tastes and trends. However, we are still spotting many influencers who aren’t confessing their post has been part of a promotion.

A new report by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) –  the UK watchdog in charge of regulating advertising have recently reminded us of the rules. Despite guidelines being in place for some time, people still find it hard to identify paid posts on social media.

Here are the key rules:

5 Rules for Working with Influencers

  1. Gifting: If an influencer has been gifting products or an experience, this should be made obvious in their social media content. Many influencers are using the hashtag #gifted or the phrase ‘Complimentary meal courtesy of’ and tagging the brand.

  2. Clear labeling: Each post or Story must be clearly labeled as an advert. This is key as the ASA is looking for is whether influencers have made it clear if they have been paid or given a freebie in return for a post. This means the disclosure shouldn’t be hidden in the hashtags. Ideally it is the first word of the post. The ASA states that #ad should be used as a minimum.

  3. Ambiguous terms: Some influencers do label their ads, but not clearly enough. The following hashtags are seen as ambiguous disclosures and should be avoided; #sp #collab #sp #Thanks and #ambassador.

  4. Paid promotion tag: The Instagram paid promotion tag, which is available to larger influencers and creator profiles isn’t sufficient enough to label an advert. Best practice is to use this tag (if you have access to it) alongside a clear disclosure in your caption.

  5. Control: As soon as a brand begins to control what is appearing in an influencer’s post, such as the time it is posted, content it contains and hashtags that are used – it becomes an advert. This is even the case if it has not been paid for.


The ASA is cracking down on those who break the rules. Last year, the watchdog cautioned between 200 and 300 influencers. However, it’s the brand that can get into serious trouble with fines being issues to them, rather than the influencer. Any consumer can complain about a post they have seen to the ASA using this form.

The ASA says it is now carefully considering its next steps following its recent research. We can expect further rules to be clarified in the coming months!

An influencer promotion clearly labelled as an AD, by wishwishwish and AdobePartner.

An influencer promotion clearly labelled as a gifted meal, by doorwaysanddressess and Banyan Leeds.

Keep on top of all of the latest rules and best practices for working with Instagram influencers in the Avocado Social Facebook Hub or visit our blog for more news and updates