Wondering about FTC Guidelines? Influencer marketing is a form of marketing that offers something of an informal feel. As a result, many brands and influencers think that they can approach it in an informal manner. This can result in all sorts of problems, from poorly executing a campaign due to lack of planning to running afoul of the law.
How can you end up on the wrong side of the law with an influencer campaign? It happens because federal guidelines for sponsored content apply to all sponsored content, including that published on social media platforms. That’s right; the federal government has evolved with our marketing techniques.
How seriously do they take their responsibility to monitor sponsored content online? According to the Federal Trade Commission, they recently sent our more than 90 letters to influencers and marketers on Instagram alone reminding them that they must abide by various guidelines. In addition to monitoring content on their own, there are numerous watchdog groups that report problematic content to them.
As a brand or influencer, it is vital that you know how to stay on the right side of federal endorsement guidelines.
We strongly encourage you to go to the FCC and FTC websites and read these guidelines for yourself. While we are going to summarize these guidelines here, there is no substitute for reading the actual guidelines for yourself.
With that said, the guidelines instruct you to disclose any material connection—compensation of any sort or a close relationship—between your brand and the influencer. In fact, simply disclosing it is not enough; you must clearly and conspicuously disclose it. This is where things tend to go wrong.
When an influencer posts sponsored content, where should they reveal the fact that it is sponsored and how should they do this? This question is at the heart of clear and conspicuous disclosure. And the federal government is not completely clear on this. This is not entirely their fault; because social media changes constantly, it is easier to offer general guidelines than to get too specific. To help you make this more concrete, we will look at a few examples.
When people view most types social media posts, only so many characters are displayed unless they click to see more. This is especially true of content viewed on mobile devices. The federal government wants material connections disclosed without the viewer needing to click to see more.
Many brands and influencers think that hashtags are a great spot for disclosing that content is sponsored. However, the federal government does not think a simple #sponsored is sufficient when its’ mixed within a string of other hashtags.
Finally, many brands and influencers will try to be less-than-obvious in their acknowledgements of sponsored content, not necessarily to be deceptive, but to not hurt the flow of the post. They may opt for things like, “Shout out to (brand)!” While this acknowledges the brand, it does not acknowledge the sponsorship.
In essence, all content you are sponsoring should be clearly noted as sponsored by your influencer from the start of every post, video, or other type of content. To get the exact language of these guidelines, visit the FCC and FTC websites.