Authenticity and trust need to be at the core of effective storytelling, especially for social media influencers promoting a product or service. Yet that trust between an influencer and their audience is often in question these days and they don’t always disclose brand partnerships in accordance with FTC endorsement guidelines.

That’s why we’re excited to see the FTC released new influencer-friendly resources focused on transparency.

New Influencer-Friendly Tools

The FTC published a series of new tools for influencers which include:

  1. New website landing page gov/influencers
  2. PDF guide: Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers
  3. A series of short videos you can download or watch on YouTube, including: Advice for Social Media Influencers

These tools give influencers straightforward instructions on how to be legally compliant when working with brand partners. It clearly defines when to disclose that you’ve worked with a brand, correct terminology to use and where to place the disclosure.

We’re impressed the guide is aimed at influencers rather than lawyers and marketers, as it’s written in plain language that social media influencers will be able to easily understand. According to their news release, the new tools summarize existing guidance, including the Endorsement Guides and a 2017 question-and-answer document.

Companies are Responsible, Too

While the FTC is targeting influencers with this new set of tools, we can expect they’ll continue to monitor the brands partnering with them. It should come as no surprise that companies are responsible for requiring influencers to disclose and ensure it’s happening properly. Yet, we still regularly hear stories from influencers who are asked NOT to disclose by the companies who are paying them to partner on content.

A Few Surprising Tips

Our clients rely on us to stay on top of FTC regulations for influencer partnerships and know them inside and out. Here are a few of the top tips we share with clients (and influencers they partner with) that are often unknown.

  1. Perks are compensation – The definition of a financial relationship between an influencer and a brand was previously a gray area. The guide helps clarify this, stating: “Financial relationships aren’t limited to money. Disclose the relationship if you got anything of value to mention a product.” This includes free products, discounts, travel arrangements, meals, gift cards or any other perks, even if an influencer is not under contract or required to post about it.
  2. Hashtags are not required – Despite what’s been ingrained in our minds over the years, you are not required to use hashtags on your “#ad” and “#sponsored” disclosures. You can use the words in a sentence in a more conversational and relatable way if you clearly identify the partnership. Reminder: “thanks” and “spon” are not adequate disclosure.
  3. Platform tools are not enough – Influencers need to use straightforward partnership language in the body of their posts, in addition to any disclosure tools the social platforms require, such as Facebook’s Branded Content Tool.
  4. Be conservative – It’s important to err on the side of caution, especially in regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance. For example, if you’re working with a patient influencer to promote a disease education campaign, require they disclose the company name on all posts in addition to disclosing that the content is sponsored. Not doing so can appear to veil the partnership and could cause a great backlash of mistrust among your target audiences.

Encourage Understanding and Compliance

We recommend socializing these new tools within your company, especially with social, legal and compliance teams. Consider proactively sending an email to influencers you work with to ensure they’ve seen the new tools and reinforce that you take endorsement laws seriously. We’ve already decided to include a link to the new Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers in influencer contracts.

 

Article contributed by Senior Group Director of Social and Influencer Engagement, Missy Voronyak and Hannah Byl, Associate, Influencer Engagement


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