Influencer marketing is now a multi-billion-dollar industry used by big brands and small businesses alike. The release of the new guideline which outlines the marketing disclosure requirements by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) highlights the growth.
The latest guideline from the FTC comes after a similar effort in 2017. This time around, the new document lets users know how to ensure consumers are aware of advertising relationships. And surprisingly enough, the FTC avoids government-speak and other jargon on the documents. Better yet, the agency also has short videos with easy to digest information.
FTC Guidance for Online Influencers
The FTC wants influencers to know they have an obligation to reveal the relationship they have with a brand. If they don’t reveal the full extent of this relationship, influencers will be violating the law. You can download and read Disclosure 101 for Social Media Influencers (PDF) to make sure you are following the rules to the letter.
It is important to note this is a living document with real-life consequences for violators. And as it is prone to do, the government will make an example of some violators. So, don’t let it be you; follow the rules and you won’t have anything to worry about.
Making a Good Disclosure of Your Relationship with a Brand
The process of abiding with the rule is easy enough. On the legal side, the FTC wants to stop deceptive ads. All you have to do is follow its Endorsement Guides (PDF).
If you are an influencer and you are endorsing a product through social media, the message of your endorsement has to be very clear. If there is a material connection with a brand let your audience know about it.
A material connection is a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship with a brand. This can be anything from a brand paying you to gettting free or discounted products and services.
The FTC says as an influencer, “It’s your responsibility to make these disclosures, to be familiar with the Endorsement Guides, and to comply with laws against deceptive ads. Don’t rely on others to do it for you.”
When to Disclose
If you have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand tell your audience. And remember a financial relationship isn’t limited to money. Make sure to disclose the relationship if you receive anything of value when you mention a product.
Above all, don’t assume your followers already know about the relationship you have with a brand. And even if you think you are unbiased make the disclosure.
If you use tags, likes, and pins, and it shows you like a brand or product as such they are endorsements. And if you happen to be outside of the U.S. the laws also apply.
How to Disclose
The key to making a good disclosure is to make sure your audience sees and understands it. By placing it where it can’t be missed is a good start.
If you place them on a different location such as About me or a profile page, they might never see it. If they have to click more to see it, you need to change it.
Your goal should be to quickly and clearly let your viewers know you have a relationship with a brand. The sooner you do it the faster it gets out of the way so you can do your thing.
While on the same subject, if you haven’t tried a product, you can’t talk about your experience with it. Similarly, if you find a product you are paid to talk about, not to your liking, you can’t say it was fantastic. Additionally, you can’t make claims about a product that requires proof the brand doesn’t have.
So basically, the old rule of ‘honesty is the best policy’ is the way to go. This will not only keep the FTC away from you, but you will earn the trust of your audience.