Staying on top of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidelines for influencers can be confusing, even for full-time social media stars like the Kardashians. Last April, the FTC sent letters to dozens of high-profile Instagram users, warning them that they needed to more clearly disclose their relationship to brands. But what does that mean, and how do you do it? Find out more below.
Choose the right disclosure...
FTC rules state that if a post has been subsidized in any way by a brand, that interaction must be disclosed to audiences. Relationships that require a disclosure can range from gifts of products or services, to free restaurant meals, shows, travel, or other experiences. As we touched on in our last post, many influencers choose to include the hashtag #sponsored, or #sp for short, to recognize a brand interaction. But according to the FTC, that disclosure alone is not enough. It’s important for you to state specifically that you were gifted a product or service by a company.
...and make it easy to spot
Holly Rosen Fink, founder of The Culture Mom, states her relationship to brands at the top of a new blog post, and clarifies that all opinions are her own. For social media posts, the FTC has issued specific guidelines: the disclosure should be visible without having to click the “more” button to expand a post.
Don’t take value into consideration
Even small freebies should be disclosed. The FTC suggests considering not the value of a product or service, but whether knowing about the arrangement would affect how your post is received. If you’re being entered into a sweepstakes in exchange for a post, for example, you might receive nothing at all—but it’s still best to disclose that information.
Disclose ongoing relationships
If your arrangement with the brand includes multiple posts, it’s a good idea to include a disclosure in every post. The question to ask yourself here is whether the majority of your audience is already aware of the relationship—and the safest bet is to assume they aren’t.
Don’t forget about disappearing posts
Product endorsements on Snapchat or Instagram or Facebook Stories should still carry a disclosure. The FTC suggests superimposing the disclosure over the top of the image, and making sure that it is easy to read and stays on the screen long enough for your audience to absorb it.
Keep up with ever-changing rules
As with any nascent industry, guidelines can change as new use cases emerge. Fink stays on top of social media news by reading sites like Social Media Examiner and DigitalTrends.