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5 Rules To Keep Influencers in Step With FTC Guidelines

Posted 3 August 2016 9:30 AM by Kelly Taylor @MoxieUSA, @keltaylor28

Influencer marketing helps brands create and build more authentic connections with consumers. Of course, when choosing an influencer, marketers should weigh a variety factors. It’s not just about reaching the largest audience. You must also look at the influencer’s relevance to your brand, the quality of that person’s content and his/her personality. Ensuring a balance of these factors will help you identify influencers who can act as authentic advocates on your brand’s behalf.

While authenticity is key, it’s equally important for the brand and influencer — and legally required by the FTC — to be transparent to consumers about the nature of their relationship. This comes in the form of a disclosure, which ensures that sponsored content is not misrepresented. Recently, the FTC has been more persistent on cracking down on deceptive advertising in social endorsements. So if you’re planning on using a social influencer, it might be time for a quick checkup on FTC guidelines.

Warner Bros was caught earlier this month for violating FTC guidelines by not adequately disclosing that they paid online influencers thousands of dollars to post positive gameplay videos to promote the video game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. 

FTC guidelines can be tricky, but they are essential when it comes to avoiding a sticky legal situation. Here are 5 key rules for disclosures to make sure your sponsored posts are complying with FTC guidelines and not making headlines. 

•            Rule 1 — Disclosure is mandatory.

When influencers create content on behalf of a brand, a disclosure must be included so consumers fully understand the nature of the influencer’s relationship with the brand. Influencers must include a disclosure if they’ve received any form of compensation (e.g., monetary payment, sample products, tickets, discounts, event invitations, etc.). And disclosures need to be easily understood by everyone. For example, only including a campaign hashtag could be seen as misleading. To make sure you are complying with this guideline, it is best to include “Ad” or “Sponsored” versus industry shorthand such as “Sp” or “Spon.”  

•            Rule 2: Disclosure must be clear, visible and close to each applicable message.

If a user has to click off his/her feed to see the disclosure, that disclosure does not meet FTC standards. Disclosures must be on the same page as the content itself or within a user’s feed. For example, it’s not enough to add a disclosure to an Instagram bio or on a page that’s linked to the sponsored content. A blanket disclosure for an entire campaign doesn’t work either. Each message must have its own disclosure.

•            Rule 3: All posts must be honest and accurate.

While a positive influencer experience is important for a brand, the brand must be represented truthfully in the influencer’s sponsored post. A brand cannot knowingly permit or encourage an influencer to make a claim about a product or service that is not accurate or supported. If an influencer does not feel comfortable supporting the agreed upon terms and requirements, then he/she should be removed from the brand’s program.

•            Rule 4: Disclosure must be within the same medium of the post.

For blog posts, a disclosure can be in text form. However, if an influencer is creating a video, the disclosure must be included in the video. This should be done at the beginning of the video and also included in the title text under the video. For example, the text could be formatted in the following way: “TITLE–Brand–Campaign (Sponsor).” For Snapchat, an acceptable disclosure would be text lain over the photo.

•            Rule 5: Disclosure must be placed before linking off the page.

To ensure consumers know the influencer’s relationship to the brand before they navigate off social via link or visual asset, influencers should always place disclosures before links. Also, disclosures must appear before truncated text starts. You can have it after the “read more” (especially on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn).

Utilizing social influencers to capitalize on a brand’s passionate advocates is a creative and fun way to connect with consumers, but it can be a legal risk. That’s why it’s important for a brand to fully understand the legal implications.

A more comprehensive look at the FTC’s influencer guidelines can be found here.

Do you have any other rules you would add to the list? Feel free to share them below.

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