Scrolled through any of your social media feeds lately? (Of course you have, it’s 2016)
Chances are you’ve seen more than a few sponsored posts. Whether you recognized them right off the bat or not is a question that the FTC and watchdog organizations such as Truth in Advertising are trying to answer.
Back in 2013 the FTC released new regulations aimed at helping consumers decide if the info they are reading online is tied to an advertiser. The big takeway from those regulations was that disclosure must be “clear and conspicuous” meaning, if an individual is being compensated or receiving access to products/services, etc. they must expressly state that.
Fast forward to August of this year and a certain famous family (not naming names, but they basically own the E! channel) came under fire for many of their social posts that were clearly tied to advertisements. Instead of using the recommended #ad or #sponsored, they were simply saying “thanks” to companies, such as Airbnb, that were providing them with products or services.
That scrutiny has reignited the conversation about what counts as disclosure. To help you navigate the rules, I’ve outlined the highpoints below. I’d also recommend checking out this super helpful FAQ for more info.
- There’s no specific mandate on wording from the FTC, instead they encourage the use of hashtags or simple messages such as “X company gave me X to try”
- The FTC recommends using words such as “sponsored,” “promotion,” “paid ad,” or “ad” depending on character limitations on the various social platforms
- Don’t use #spon or other ambiguous variations
- Don’t bury the disclosure. This means, #ad shouldn’t be in the comments of your Instagram post (a common practice for influencers), but instead in the body copy of the post
- A hyperlink to “disclosure” or “legal” isn’t sufficient (this is different from the 2013 regulations – links leading to this type of info were previously encouraged)
- If you’re recording a video, your disclosure should be spoken and included in the video or video description
Whether a brand or marketing/advertising partner, these regulations matter. The FTC has often reminded folks that while it won’t necessarily pursue action against the influencer (although in some cases, it might make sense), they will go after companies and agencies that appear to be engaging in deceptive advertising campaigns.
The old adage, “better safe than sorry,” certainly rings true in this case.