As the conduit between influencers and brands, we make it a priority to stay on top of regulations that apply to the ever-evolving influencer marketing industry. It’s no secret that there’s been a boom in the influencer marketing industry, which is why we thought it was important to share a quick refresher on the FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) disclosure guidelines.
These regulations apply to anyone who produces online content about brands in exchange for compensation (and compensation can include not only cash, but free products/services, discounts, special access or other exchange of goods or services).
If you are purchasing the product on your own, there is no need to disclose anything. The FTC only regulates endorsements that are made on behalf of a paying advertiser.
Read on for more on how to stay compliant!
Blog Post Disclosures
The FTC is not overly prescriptive when it comes to providing specific language for disclosure statements. Rather, they state that the goal is “to give readers the essential information.”
Here is an acceptable sample disclosure statement: “Brand X provided me with free products to try in exchange for my honest opinion.”
A good rule of thumb is to disclose your partnership right away and every time you are talking about it. For a blog post, that generally means at the top of the post (and that includes mentions of affiliate links). The FTC also states that these disclosure statements must be clear and visible to “a reasonable consumer” (meaning they should not have to go searching for the information).
So, if you have a dedicated disclosure page that states you receive free product or compensation in exchange for your reviews, you might think you’re compliant. Per the FTC, though, one single disclosure on one page does not suffice since readers could easily miss it.
Similarly, the FTC advises against linking or redirecting to a full disclosure statement since it “does not convey the importance, nature, and relevance of the information to which it leads and it is likely that many consumers will not click on it and therefore will miss necessary disclosures.”
Additional information and compliance best practices can be found at this link, too.
Social Media Disclosures
Several social media platforms now offer branded content tools (see our post about Facebook’s branded content tool), which allow pages or profiles to visibly indicate content that includes a third party, brand, or sponsor.
While these tools are helpful in marking a paid relationship, the FTC does not consider them adequate for the purposes of disclosure.
To be sure you’re properly disclosing your partnership, in addition to the branded tool, publishers should use one of the following disclosures in the caption or text overlay of a social media post:
- Ad or #ad
- Sponsored or #sponsored
- Promotion or #promotion
Per the FTC, they are not “mandating the specific wording of disclosures. However, the same general principle – that people get the information they need to evaluate sponsored statements – applies across the board, regardless of the advertising medium.” In other words, while you don’t necessarily need to use the exact disclosures listed above, avoid using ambiguous disclosures in social media.
The FTC will also not dictate where in the social post the disclosure needs to be, as long as it is easily noticed or understood.
As of now, the FTC is not actively pursuing violations to these policies, but they will evaluate violations that come to their attention and determine whether or not to fine those who have made the error.
Since this is an ever-changing industry, there are certainly going to be times of uncertainty when it comes to properly adhering to the most current guidelines, so stay tuned for additional updates on this topic.
In the meantime, we recommend bookmarking the FTC’s endorsement guide page for updated information!