Influencers and Disclosures: FTC Guidelines Influencers Should Know
Any full-time influencer can tell you that content creation is no easy job. If you are interested in content creation or you are a music artist interested in potentially endorsing products on your social media, there are a few things that you should know before posting any paid content. The Federal Trade Commission, also known as the FTC, has put into place certain guidelines for influencers when endorsing in order to battle against deceptive advertising.
Disclosing Material Connection
The FTC states that when you have a “material connection” to the product you are posting about this must be disclosed in the post. The FTC defines a “material connection” as a personal, family, employment, or (the most common connection) financial relationship. A financial relationship includes being paid to post content and being provided free products to post content. It is important to note that US law applies if it is going to affect US consumers, meaning even if you are in another country if you are advertising something that reaches the US market, these laws are applicable. However, if you post a product that you happen to like and have not been paid to advertise, you do not have to disclose that you were not paid.
How to Disclose
The part of FTC law that tends to get confusing is how to disclose the material connection. The important thing to remember is that the disclosure has to be placed in a way that people will see and understand the disclosure, thus it should be placed in a way that is hard to miss. Using language such as “spon” or “collab” have been deemed insufficient disclosure. Depending on the format, this can be a bit challenging. If the endorsement is in a video, the disclosure must be in the video itself and not just in the description or caption. Another format that tends to be confusing is if the endorsement is in a story format on a social media platform such as Instagram or Snapchat, it is important that the story say somewhere that it was a paid endorsement.
Tips to Avoid FTC Action
Use simple and clear language when disclosing. The easiest way to do this would be to put #ad, #advertisement, or #sponsored. Although this is not the only option to use, it is the easiest most straightforward way to disclose. Additionally, many platforms have built in tools to disclose ads such as Instagram’s “Paid Partnership” tag. Influencers should also keep in mind that the FTC states that influencers should not talk about experiences with products they have not tried or make up claims about a product that would require proof the influencer does not have – such as stating a product can cure a medical condition.
It is imperative that influencers follow these guidelines in order to avoid potential fines which could be up to as much as $40,000. The FTC has shown they are not afraid to confront these situations with influencers. At the beginning of the surge of influencer marketing in 2017, the FTC sent letters to 21 different influencers/celebrities, such as actress Sofia Vergara and singer Jennifer Lopez, regarding these guidelines.
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