Influencer Marketing Guidelines to Remain FTC Compliant
If you’re active on any social media platform in 2022, it’s quite certain you’ve come across an influencer account or a sponsored post at some point. Specializing in just about any interest imaginable, influencers can be a great tool for brands seeking to connect with their target audience in a more personal, authentic way than traditional paid social media ads or TV commercials. But what many social media users don’t know is that U.S.-based influencers who work with brands to recommend or endorse products must adhere to a strict set of guidelines dictated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to avoid misleading consumers into confusing ads with organic posts. Failure to comply with these influencer marketing guidelines can lead to hefty penalties, fines, and legal fees.
If you’re looking to test the waters of influencer marketing but don’t know where to start, or are just curious about how influencer marketing works, this guide is for you!
When You Need to Disclose Your Relationship with a Brand
To put it simply, if you have a financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand, you must disclose that relationship. A financial relationship doesn’t have to mean you are getting paid directly to endorse a product. It can include receiving anything of value to mention a product, like free or discounted products or other financial perks.
You should disclose your relationship with brands often. It may seem reasonable to assume that your followers already know about your brand relationships, but that’s not always the case. With the way Instagram algorithms operate, it’s entirely possible for followers to miss certain posts altogether, so you should disclose your relationships with brands every time you post about a product, even if you believe that your reviews are unbiased. Endorsements don’t have to be verbal either.
Other ways of showing you favor a brand or product such as tags, likes, and pins also count as endorsements. Lastly, if you’re posting from abroad but many of your followers are in the U.S., FTC law may still apply if it’s reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect U.S. consumers. To summarize, FTC influencer marketing guidelines are rather strict as to when you need to disclose relationships with brands, so it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
How to Communicate this Relationship to Your Followers
Now that you know when to disclose brand relationships, let’s go over how to comply with these influencer marketing guidelines when communicating with your followers.
If you’re endorsing a product in the caption of a social media post, it may be tempting to bury the disclosure so followers don’t notice that the post is sponsored, but the FTC stresses that people must “see and understand” the disclosure. That means placing the disclosure within the endorsement message itself so that it’s hard to miss. Hiding the disclosure within the hashtags or on the account bio won’t cut it.
Different rules apply for making an endorsement in a picture or video post. On platforms like Snapchat or Instagram Stories where there isn’t a text caption, you must superimpose the disclosure over the picture, and make sure to set the timer on the image so viewers have enough time to read it. Video endorsements should include the disclosure in the video in addition to a disclosure in the description or caption since viewers often watch social media videos with the sound off and could easily miss the endorsement. If you’re making an endorsement in a live stream, you should repeat the disclosure periodically for people who tune in and out of the stream and might’ve missed it.
The FTC also recommends using simple and clear language when disclosing brand relationships, so the disclosure is clear to your followers. A phrase as simple as “Thank you _ for the free product” is enough to get the job done, as long as it’s easy to find. Other terms like “advertisement,” “ad,” and “sponsored,” but steer clear from vague terms like “spon,” and “collab,” or stand-alone terms like “thanks” or “ambassador.”
Violations of FTC Influencer Marketing Guidelines
They may seem like no-brainers, but the following missteps are surprisingly common in the age of misinformation on social media. The FTC prohibits:
- Talking about your experience with a product you haven’t tried.
- Giving a disingenuously positive review of a product that you thought was bad.
- Making up claims about a product that would require proof that the advertiser doesn’t have – such as scientific proof of health benefits.
Even experienced marketers may have trouble navigating the complex world of influencer marketing. However, with the right team, knowledge and insights about your target audience, influencers can be a great avenue for boosting brand recognition and driving sales. If this sounds like an overwhelming process, reach out to Brandware today to learn how we can help you plan an influencer marketing campaign for your brand.