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The FTC Issues New Resources for Influencers: “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers”

Influencer marketing is one of the most popular marketing tools for companies in today’s market.  Influencers can make substantial sums of money for just one post.  While this is a great way for influencers to earn a living and for companies to get their message across to today’s consumers, there are risks involved with social media marketing if not executed properly.  The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), among other responsibilities, works to stop deceptive advertising.  As we have previously reported, everyone involved in social media marketing needs to be sure that influencers comply with the FTC’s Enforcement Guidelines  (the “Guidelines”).

In 2017, the FTC staff issued Questions & Answers (“Q&As”) regarding the FTC’s Guidelines to aid in the understanding of how to abide by the law when marketing on social media.  Now, in its continuing effort to help influencers and companies understand and comply with the laws, the FTC has published a new brochure, “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers” (the “Brochure”), which summarizes the Guidelines and the Q&As, and provides influencers with tips regarding disclosure triggers and offers examples of both effective and ineffective disclosures.  The new Brochure is also accompanied by a helpful video that emphasizes that the responsibility to make the appropriate disclosures about endorsements lies with the influencer. 

The new Brochure is comprehensive and easy to read – it highlights the basics of the FTC’s requirements, and outlines the various ways that an influencer’s relationship with a brand would make disclosures necessary, how those disclosures should be made, and provides guidance as to the truthfulness requirements expected by influencers.  For example, the Brochure reminds influencers that they cannot assume that their followers are aware of their connections to brands and stresses that if an influencer endorses a product or service through social media, the message should make it obvious when the influencer has a “material connection” with the brand, such as a personal, family, employment or financial relationship.  The Brochure includes tips as to when and how influencers should tell their followers about relationships with brands, including words they can use and where disclosures should appear.  It also notes the importance of telling followers about material connections because it helps keep influencer’s recommendations honest and truthful, and allows people to weigh the value of endorsements.

Additionally, the Brochure provides important practical guidance to influencers.  Among other important points, the Brochure explains that it is not acceptable to assume a social media platform’s disclosure tools are enough to comply with the Guidelines.  It also explains that to make proper disclosures on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories, the disclosure should be superimposed over the picture with enough time for viewers to notice and read it; that for videos the disclosure should be in the video in both audio and video format, and not just in the description uploaded with the video; and that if making an endorsement with a live stream, the disclosure should be repeated periodically so viewers who only see part of the stream will not miss the disclosure. These are just a few of the important matters addressed by the FTC in the Brochure.

The Brochure is a must read for all influencers, brands, advertising agencies and anyone involved with social media content.  It provides valuable guidance on social media advertising in a way that is easy to understand.  The FTC is also offering free copies in bulk for advertisers, PR firms or agencies that work regularly with influencers to help with training and monitoring efforts.

TAKEAWAY: Influencer marketing is an extremely popular marketing tool that can be very beneficial to companies and influencers alike; however, social media marketing has unique challenges.  Companies and influencers need to ensure that when using such marketing methods they are cognizant of complying with the FTC’s Guidelines so they don’t run afoul of the law.  Taking advantage of the FTC’s new Brochure and its other valuable guidance is highly recommended for anyone involved in the world of social media marketing.

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