Whether it’s on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest or Facebook, influencer marketing has become an increasingly popular way for businesses to reach potential customers.
However, since always more people are engaging in this type of marketing and business, it’s become important to also regulate it. That’s why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued its influencers guidelines, to enhance transparency in the use of influencers marketing.
In this article, we’ll go through the latest FTC Requirements for Influencers and explain everything you need to know about it.
FTC Influencer Guidelines 2023: key concepts
The Federal Trade Commission issued its influencer guidelines to stop deceiving advertising.
Transparency is of the utmost importance here. So if you’re a business using influencer marketing or you’re an influencer sponsoring a product, you always need to disclose that. A clear and conspicuous disclosure ensures that consumers are aware of your endorsement and they can weigh its value independently
A disclosure is always needed when the influencer has a “material connection” with the brand. A material connection includes:
a personal or family relationship;
an employment relationship;
or a financial relationship, which doesn’t include only direct payments. Financial relationship also means that the company gives you a free or discounted product/service, makes you eligible for a price, or that you make a percentage off each sale (in the case of affiliates).
The FTC influencers guidelines are meant for a US public, but they can apply abroad if “it’s reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect U.S. consumers”. At the same time, foreign laws can apply to US businesses.
How to comply with FTC Requirements for Influencers
Once you get the job and sign a contract with a brand, there are a few best practices you need to follow:
Always disclose a material connection
If it’s a picture or an Instagram or Snapchat story, use consistent language and hashtags, such as #sponsored or #ad.
If it’s a video or a podcast, make sure to mention the endorsement at the beginning, and maybe repeat it throughout your video or podcast.
Use simple and clear language and don’t be ambiguous. Simply saying “Thank you” isn’t a clear sign of endorsement.
Make your disclosure hard to miss
Place the disclosure with the message of endorsement.
If you’re using an hashtag to disclose the endorsement, don’t hide it in a group of hashtags and links.
Place it in a way that people can easily read it.
Don’t recommend a service or product you haven’t tried.
If you didn’t like the product you’re sponsoring, don’t exaggerate its qualities.
Don’t make absurd claims. For example, don’t claim a product can have a benefit on your health if it’s not scientifically proven.
Understand which regional/national privacy laws apply to you
If you have an international public, you need to be aware of other laws or guidelines that can apply to you.
Besides consumer laws, other laws can apply to you, especially if you have a website.
And what if I don’t comply?
Not complying with these guidelines means that the Federal Trade Commission can take enforcement action against you. These actions can include fines, legal action, and cease and desist orders.
For example, in 2017, the FTC settled with Lord & Taylor over its influencer marketing campaign. Lord & Taylor paid 50 online fashion influencers to post Instagram pictures of themselves wearing the same dress from the new collection, but failed to disclose they had given each influencer the dress, as well as thousands of dollars, in exchange for their endorsement.
As a marketer, you need to keep in mind that there are many guidelines and laws regulating your business. And it can be hard to keep up!
So let’s recap what we’ve said so far:
the FTC Influencers Guidelines apply to you if you’re an influencer in the US or if you have followers in the US;
a disclosure is always needed when you receive any type of benefit from a sponsorship;