FTC Guidelines and Influencer Marketing

FTC Guidelines and Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing is all the rage these days, and marketers can’t get enough of the beautiful content that digital influencers create and push out to thousands, even millions of engaged followers. As this new area of marketing has exploded in recent years, businesses, as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), have scrambled to govern the “wild west” of Influencer Marketing practices.

What is an Influencer?

First, you might be asking yourself what exactly is an “influencer.” We define digital influencers as users who create unique content for an engaged audience on social media. Whether it is videos on YouTube, images on Instagram, or a popular blog, if that creator has captured a large audience with their content, they are an influencer.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Based on a recent survey, more than 89% of marketers already rely on influencers to generate shareable content for their brands. These partnerships can take place in several different forms. Brands will often host events and invite influencers to attend in exchange for promotion of the event on the influencer’s digital channels. Other times companies will contract influencers to create content for platforms such as Instagram to showcase their product to the influencer’s fans. When a business wants to build their presence on social media, they will frequently team up with an influencer to host sweepstakes to help create buzz and provide an incentive for the influencer’s audience to follow them as well.

Brands should always look to make strategic choices when selecting influencers for a marketing campaign. Furthermore, businesses must be cautious when administering these campaigns to avoid potential liability for claims filed with the FTC.

How to Abide by the FTC Guidelines When Working with Influencers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is tasked with protecting consumers from unfair or deceptive practices in advertising. Over the past few years, the FTC has begun closely scrutinizing influencer partnerships. Given that many social media users are teenagers, the FTC is cracking down and looking for any indications of misleading marketing practices on different platforms.

For example, if a new fashion brand contracts an influencer to wear their clothing and then post an image on Instagram featuring the items, a follower might be deceived if the influencer does not disclose this relationship. Fans often look to influencers for credible purchasing recommendations, so it is important that all business relationships are published by the influencer to avoid confusion.

Recently, 90 influencers received letters from the FTC, reminding them of their responsibility to the public to disclose their sponsored posts on social media correctly. The FTC’s Endorsement Guides defines a “material connection” between an influencer and a brand advertising with them as “a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the gift of a free product.” So how can a brand ensure that the influencers they are partnering with are adequately disclosing the relationship? We recommend that brands include the following requirements in contracts with influencers to avoid any potential liability with the FTC:

  1. Clear use of either #Sponsored or #ad in the copy of an Instagram post. This must appear on the first three lines of text, as the FTC has clarified that they do not want these hashtags buried.

  1. Avoid vague disclosures such as #spon or #partner. Require that the influencers are as clear as possible.

  1. Remember that even if you are only providing an influencer a product for free, and do not pay them to post, the influencer is still required to disclose this as a sponsored endorsement.

Need help administering influencer marketing campaigns for your brand and ensuring that you are following the rules presented in the FTC Guidelines? We are happy to help! Contact us today.

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