November 14, 2019

Hashtag Ad: FTC Releases Disclosure Guidelines for Social Media Influencers

You’re not an influencer (yet)? That’s OK. This still matters. If your company uses influencers as part of its marketing strategy, it shares responsibility to ensure compliance with all Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines. At the end of the day, the influencer is speaking on behalf of your company. It’s your responsibility to make this relationship obvious to consumers and to ensure the communication is truthful, accurate and not misleading.

The FTC has been focused on the proper disclosure of material connections for several years and last week added clarity for “influencers”—the people who have enough social media followers that they get paid to endorse things while they travel, eat, drink and blog.

This is not the FTC’s first guide, but the agency took special attention this time and not only released the written guide, titled “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers,” but also created a dedicated influencer website that offers shareable videos and a blog. They call the guide “influencer friendly.”

The new guidance didn’t necessarily provide anything “new,” but it helped clarify the FTC’s expectations moving forward. When influencers are compensated—whether by cash, discounts or free stuff—to include text, images or other content online or in social media, they are required to:

  1. Disclose their relationship with the brand
  2. In a location that is hard to miss without scrolling
  3. Use simple and clear language like “ad,” “advertisement,” “sponsored,” “partner” or “ambassador”

Influencers must also tell the truth. They can’t talk about products they haven’t used, can’t say a product is awesome when they think it stinks, and can’t make up claims about a product that cannot be substantiated. In other words, the FTC is holding both the company and the influencer accountable for claims made about a product. It’s just good business to #Ad.

For more information, see the guide here.

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