On Tuesday, the FTC released a set of guidelines for online influencers dictating when and how influencers must disclose sponsorships to their followers. The guidelines, available here, break down disclosure requirements and provide tips for influencers on how to avoid deceptive advertising.
In general, the guidelines largely reflect what the industry has gleaned from FTC actions and guidance over the years regarding what is and is not sufficient. We summarize some highlights from the guidelines below:
When to Disclose:
- Influencers should not assume that followers are aware of their brand relationships.
- The FTC labels tags, “likes”, and pins as endorsements.
- Influencers merely telling followers about products that they like do not need to disclose the absence of a brand relationship.
How to Disclose:
- Disclosures should not be included only in an influencer’s profile page or indecipherable in a group of hashtags and links.
- For picture endorsements with time limits (e.g., Instagram Stories or Snapchat), influencers should superimpose the disclosure over the picture and ensure that viewers have enough time to notice and read the disclosure.
- For picture endorsements without time limits (e.g. Instagram posts), the disclosure can be included in the comments of the post, but should be clear and obvious. Disclosures are likely to be missed if they are later in the comment and require a follower to click “MORE.”
- For video endorsements, the disclosure should be in the video itself; including the disclosure in the description alone is not enough.
- For live stream endorsements (e.g., Instagram TV or Facebook Live), influencers should repeat the endorsement periodically so that viewers who only see part of the stream still get the disclosure.
The FTC will be performing a regulatory review of its Endorsement Guides in early 2020, which could trigger changes in the FTC’s perspective on what is or is not a sufficient disclosure given increased consumer familiarity with platform partnership tools, changes in social media platforms, and new content methods. Check back for updates.