FTC Endorsement Guidelines [Infographic]

The Updated FTC Endorsement Guidelines: What Brands Must Know For Sponsorships On Social Media & With Influencers [Infographic]

The FTC’s new 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 is attempting to create more transparency in sponsored social media content by placing more onus on brands (and in some cases, on influencers too) to openly divulge the relationship between companies and the digital stars who recommend their products or services.

While the FTC now offers more guidance on exactly what it expects proper disclosure to look and/or sound like—the agency even published a simple Q&A to address marketers’ basic concerns—the ever-changing nature of social media makes establishing a set of clear-cut rules nearly impossible. Instead, the FTC offers a number of guidelines that brands can follow to convey a reasonable degree of transparency to digital media/social media consumers.

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.

 Related Post: 93% Of Top Celebrities On Instagram Violate FTC Endorsement Guidelines [Study]

The 2018 FTC Endorsement Guidelines For Sponsored Social Media

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 newest FTC endorsement rules and regulations for 2018:

FTC Endorsement Guidelines Sponsorship Social Media Infographic

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Overview Of The FTC Endorsement Guidelines By Social Media Platform

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.

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:

  • YouTubers/brands should use words or phrases that are clear and unambiguous, such as “This video is sponsored by…” and include sponsorship information above the “show more” button.
  • Disclosure should be included as a clear and written overlay on the video. Additional verbal disclosure is also recommended. In both verbal and written form, disclosures should appear close to the beginning of the video; for written disclosures, words must remain on the screen long enough to be read and understood.
  • Avoid using ambiguous phrases like “thanks to…”, attempting to hide written disclosures at the bottom of the video description, or failing to include written and verbal disclosure within the video itself.
  • YouTube’s built-in paid promotion tool is not considered sufficient disclosure by the FTC. When using the paid promotion tool, include additional proper disclosure.
  • Use hashtags #sponsored, #ad, #paid to indicate sponsorship, but avoid using ambiguous hashtag disclosures like #sp, #spon, #collab, or #ambassador. When using ambiguous disclosures, include additional proper disclosure.
  • Place the disclosure before the “more” button and at the beginning of the content description, if possible. Don’t disclose sponsorship in the comments or attempt to bury disclosure among other hashtags.
  • Instagram’s built-in paid partnership tag is not considered sufficient disclosure by the FTC. When using the paid partnership tag, include additional proper disclosure.
  • For Instagram Stories, disclosure should be superimposed on the image.
  • Sponsored Snaps or Snapchat Stories must have #ad, #sponsored, or #paid written or superimposed directly on sponsored content. If an entire Snapchat Story is sponsored, the disclosure should appear on the first Snap of the Story.
  • Disclosure should also be made verbally if sponsored Snapchat content is a video.
  • Avoid using #sp, #spon, #collab, #ambassador or any other ambiguous hashtags that do not clearly communicate the sponsorship or fail to verbally disclose sponsorship if sponsored content is a video.
  • Sponsored Snaps or Snapchat Stories must have #ad, #sponsored, or #paid written directly on sponsored content. If an entire Snapchat Story is sponsored, the disclosure should appear on the first or second Snap of the Story.
  • For endorsements that appear in blogs, disclosure should be written in clear, unambiguous phrases like “This post is sponsored by…” and in a legible font.
  • Disclosures should occur at the beginning of the blog post and should not require the user to scroll to see the sponsorship information.
  • Disclosing on the homepage does not replace the need to disclose on individual sponsored blog posts.
  • Disclose sponsorship at the beginning of the post description using #sponsored, #ad, or #paid (if disclosing sponsorship with hashtags) and by tagging the brand whenever possible.
  • If sponsored content is a video, disclose sponsorship as a clear and written overlay on the video. Additional verbal disclosure is also recommended.
  • Avoid using phrases or hashtags that are unclear or ambiguous, such as #sp, #spon, #collab, #ambassador, “Thanks to…” or “Video made possible by…”. Accompany ambiguous disclosures with additional proper disclosure.
  • Disclose sponsorship verbally at the beginning of the video and include disclosure in the video description in clear, unambiguous language.
  • For lengthy sponsored livestreams, disclose periodically throughout the livestream .
  • If using hashtags, disclose with #ad, #sponsored, or #paid.
  • Do not use ambiguous words or phrases such as #sp, #spon, #collaboration, “Thanks to…” or “Video made possible by…”.
  • Sponsored tweets must include #ad or #paid, preferably near the beginning of the tweet. The sponsoring brand may also be tagged when applicable.
  • Ambiguous or unclear hashtags—#spon, #sp, #collaboration—should be avoided, and must be accompanied by additional proper disclosure hashtags if used.

FTC Endorsement Guidelines By Communication Type

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:

  • Social influencers/brands should use #sponsored, #ad, #paid, #[Brand]Ambassador or any hashtag that clearly and unambiguously conveys sponsorship. Avoid using #spon, #sp, #partner, #ambassador, #collab, #collaboration or any other hashtag that doesn’t clearly convey nature of sponsored content.
  • Use #[Brand]Sweepstakes in hashtags for contests and sweepstakes.
  • Place disclosure hashtags at the beginning of a social description or blog post. Do not place hashtags at the end of the description, require users to click “more” to see the disclosure, include disclosure in the comments section only, or hide disclosure among many other hashtags.
  • Say “This post is sponsored by…” or other phrases that clearly conveys sponsorship. Verbally disclosures must come as close to the beginning of videos, podcasts, or other sponsored content as possible.
  • Avoid using ambiguous verbiage such as “Thanks to…” or other phrases that do not clearly denote the relationship between brand and social influencer. Also, avoid verbally disclosing the sponsorship at the end of videos, podcast, and other sponsored content.
  • Written disclosures must employ clear wording, such as “This post is sponsored by…”. Written disclosures must also be visible, appear in a different color than the background color, occur at the top/beginning of sponsored social media content, and remain on the screen long enough to be read and understood (for written disclosures in videos).
  • Disclosures should not appear as written phrases that are unclear, such as “Thanks to…” or “Made possible by…”.
  • Acceptable language to meet FTC endorsement guidelines include:
    • “Sponsored by…”
    • “Paid for by…”
    • “This product was given to me by…”
  • Language that does not meet FTC endorsement guidelines includes:
    • “In partnership with…”
    • “Thanks to…”
    • “In collaboration with…”
    • “This brand rocks!”