It’s easy to see why influencer marketing has become such a significant part of social media marketing strategies. Consumers trust recommendations and reviews from people far more than they do a brand’s advertisements—and for many consumers, influencers are those entrusted people. When marketers realized as much, these high-profile content creators became an authentic and organic method of reaching those consumers. Much like a traditional product endorsement, some influencers are paid in exchange for a post while others are gifted products and post of their own volition. The success of this marketing strategy skyrocketed its popularity as the go-to method for boosting business. However, as the prevalence of influencer posts increased, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) decided it should lay down some ground rules. When it comes to increasing brand awareness and sales, micro-influencer marketing continues to be arguably one of the most effective means of marketing. However, lifestyle content creators and brands alike need to ensure they’re following the FTC’s guidelines. Failing to do so can land both parties in some hot water. While the FTC generally starts with some lukewarm warning letters, you don’t want to find yourself in a scalding lawsuit. But when it comes right down to it, the FTC’s goal is simple: to promote transparency. That being said, just because the goal is clear doesn’t mean the rules are. The FTC published a set of guidelines, to which advertisers and influencers must adhere, in language that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Between unclear rules and ambiguous relationships, brands and content creators often find themselves in the dark about what’s really required when they’re striking up a deal.
Why Do Influencers Have To Disclose Brand Sponsorships?
Although social media influencer marketing is a relatively new concept, product endorsements have been around for many decades. Even so, advertisers and influencers should be clear on the difference between paid advertisements and earned media. When influencers receive free products, incentives, or payment from brands in exchange for product endorsements, the FTC requires influencers to disclose the brand relationship to their followers. For example, a shoe company might offer a pair of sneakers to an influencer if that person agrees to post an Instagram photo featuring the product. Under FTC regulations, this Instagram influencer must disclose the nature of this business relationship to their followers. Furthermore, brands cannot represent an influencer’s sponsored content as unbiased—they must indicate their sponsorship to avoid misleading consumers. This means if the shoe brand shares their influencer’s product review, they must disclose the agreement when reposting it. However, when the nature of influencer-brand relationships is not so simple, FTC guidelines become hazy. A few grey areas include:
- Free samples and gifts
- Products that are returned after reviewing
- Voluntary posts about a branded product or service
So why are the guidelines for disclosing brand-influencer relationships so confusing? A lack of concrete language for influencer marketing has led to some uncertainty regarding what needs to be spelled out in an influencer’s post. Even the FTC’s guide is riddled with noncommittal phrases like, “might depend on,” “you should,” and “it’s possible.” Furthermore, there are seemingly contradictory statements such as: "[It is not] an issue if you get the product for free because a store is giving out free samples to its customers,” followed by, “Bloggers who...receive free product samples in exchange for writing about them, also are covered." To avoid an unnecessary legal mess, it’s best to leave your campaigns in the hands of a seasoned micro-influencer marketing agency that understands sponsorship best-practices.
How Do You Disclose The Brand-Influencer Relationship?
Once you’ve got a handle on what types of deals require transparency, the next step is figuring out how to tell your followers about your paid sponsorships. When featuring a brand’s product on your social accounts, consider the FTC’s guidelines:
- Clearly disclose when you have a financial or family relationship with a brand
- Don’t assume that using a platform’s disclosure tool is sufficient
- Avoid ambiguous disclosures like #thanks, #collab, #sp, #spon, or #ambassador
- Don’t rely on a disclosure placed after a CLICK MORE link or in another easy-to-miss location
A Little Help From Your Friends
Adhering to FTC requirements can feel like you’re navigating through some nebulous territory, but the upside is you don’t have to do it alone. ApexDrop aligns brands with micro-influencers who understand when disclosures are required, and we meticulously monitor campaign posts for quality and compliance. If you’re looking to make the most of your campaigns, click here to contact ApexDrop and schedule a free demo.
Get Started Today
ApexDrop’s micro-influencers only showcase products that they love, so brands and followers don’t have to worry about inauthentic content. Our micro-influencers also know how to capitalize on Instagram stories to create engaging content while placing your product in the limelight. Finally, ApexDrop always checks for fake followers, likes, and comments to ensure engagement is genuine. If you are looking to utilize Instagram Stories to showcase your product, then consider reaching out to ApexDrop for a free demo. We’ve connected thousands of businesses with hand-picked micro-influencers who proudly show their followers that they feel passionate about certain brands. For more information, schedule a call with an ApexDrop Influencer Specialist today at https://apexdrop.com/contact.