UPDATED November 14, 2019 — The FTC’s endorsement guidelines for sponsored content rests on a simple assumption: consumers are likely to react differently to recommendations that come from trusted friends (or social media stars) than from people who receive compensation to endorse a product. To that end, the FTC wants to create more transparency in sponsored content by placing more onus on brands and influencers to openly divulge the relationship between companies and the influencers recommending their products or services.
The FTC has offered more guidance in the past on what constitutes proper disclosure—the agency even published a simple Q&A to address marketers’ basic concerns—but the ever-changing nature of social media makes establishing a set of clear-cut rules nearly impossible. Now, the FTC came up with a new format that targets influencers specifically: Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers. In addition, the FTC published three videos that outline how influencers should disclose their connection to a brand.
The creator-friendly guidelines serve to inform influencers when and how to properly disclose endorsements to avoid deceptive advertising tactics along with some other helpful reminders. While the FTC endorsement guidelines have always aimed to convey transparency to digital consumers, influencers have either been unaware of best practices, found ways to conceal ads, or ignored the guidelines altogether.
The new 2019 FTC endorsement guidelines shift focus onto influencers and their responsibility to understand disclosure guidelines when partnering with brands, underscoring three key components of proper endorsement practices:
Based on our experience developing sponsored social media content for global brands, we’ve identified what we believe to be the most important FTC endorsement rules below.
The following infographic should not be taken as legal advice. Rather, it should be used as a general guideline for making sure that sponsored content meets (to a reasonable degree) the FTC endorsement rules and regulations:
As evidenced by the rich history of FTC violations and subsequent guideline updates, the FTC is attempting to clear the air once more to emphasize the importance of proper sponsorship disclosure.
Influencer marketing has the potential to yield high ROI, however, the relationship between brands and influencers must be disclosed in order to ensure compliance with the governing body (the FTC) that dictates whether sponsored content is acceptable or not.
With the evolution of influencer marketing and growing confusion over the FTC guidelines, incongruities between brands and influencers often emerge. The FTC has responded with efforts to clarify its endorsement and disclosure guidelines, all in the name of protecting consumers.
FTC guidelines state that proper disclosure must be provided whenever a social media user is provided with financial compensation, free product, or a gift provided in exchange for a post. Proper disclosure must be provided each time a previously sponsored product or service is included in a post. Additionally, content creators must disclose when they have a family relationship with a brand.
Other key elements of proper disclosure include:
Because every social media platform is different, the FTC has different endorsement requirements for sponsored content on YouTube, Instagram, blogs, etc. The following are some of the FTC’s recommendations for sponsorships on:
While knowing platform-specific FTC endorsement guidelines can be helpful, the FTC is more concerned about the types of disclosure and less with how each disclosure appears on any given social media platform. Here are the FTC’s recommendations for:
Whether a brand or influencer, it is your responsibility to know the FTC endorsement guidelines and to comply with them when creating sponsored content. Working with a reputable influencer marketing agency will ensure your influencer campaigns comply with FTC rules. Want to work with us on your next campaign? Learn more here.