In these days of increasingly rigorous monitoring by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), marketers must make the disclosure of sponsored content in influencer-marketing campaigns a top priority. But what makes this disclosure such an important consideration?
First of all, the open disclosure of sponsored content maintains consumer confidence. A straightforward #ad or #sponsored ups the trustworthiness factor for influencers and brands alike. Influencers’ fans are never left wondering whether the post is a paid advertisement.
Second, it’s the law. FTC guidelines dictate that influencers openly reveal sponsored partnerships in their posts.
As a marketer, transparency is a detail you can not afford to overlook. When FTC rules are flouted, it’s brands that are usually held accountable, not influencers. So, what do marketers need to know to stay within FTC guidelines? Read on to learn our top seven tips.
Tip #1: Honesty is Always the Best Policy
Off the bat, something that should go without saying but must be said anyway, just in case: It is never okay to require an influencer to give your product a favorable review. Just don’t do it — in fact, don’t even hint that a good review is preferred.
This honesty requirement applies to influencers as well. You are absolutely not allowed to imply that you’ve used a product if you haven’t.
Tip #2: Have a Clear Understanding of What Must Be Disclosed
The onus is on marketers to have a clear understanding of FTC guidelines. If money or goods are exchanged, obviously the influencer must disclose this.
What you may not know is that if there is any kind of prior relationship between your brand and your influencer, this must also be disclosed. It helps to ask what you would want to know yourself as a consumer. Is the influencer your firstborn, favorite niece, or parole officer? This is information that probably should be disclosed.
Your brand will have to answer to the FTC if any guidelines are neglected, so be sure to get clear what must be shared.
Tip #3: Be Specific With Influencers About Disclosure Rules
Discuss your rules about disclosure to your influencer partners in the plainest possible language. Let them know exactly what you require and give them space to ask questions, just so that you know for sure that you understand each other.
While we’re on this subject of rules, a small but important tip: As hashtags go, it’s safest to use the old standbys, #ad, #sponsored and #paid. Avoid vague hashtags like #sp or #collab. It’s fine to use a branded hashtag (e.g., #DonutCity) but never rely on this alone to let folks know that a post is sponsored.
It’s best not to get too creative with your hashtags. The important thing is that consumers see and understand when a post is a paid advertisement.
Tip #4: Monitor Campaigns After They Go Live
Make it a rule to check content before it is posted. Also, make it a rule to monitor posts after they are posted.
Constant monitoring — both manual and automated — is a great way to head off potential issues and ensure that guidelines are being followed.
Create a schedule before your campaign launches and have team members regularly check influencer posts to make sure that content stays within predetermined campaign parameters.
Be sure to also take advantage of automated processes to monitor hashtag usage, codes and mentions so that you can catch any content that doesn’t meet your standards ASAP.
Tip #5: Check Out Influencers’ #SponCon Histories
Communicating expectations is easier when your influencer-partners are in sync with your brand’s mission and voice. Platforms like SocialBook can help make the influencer-selection process much easier.
SocialBook lets you check out important influencer stats like audience demographics and engagement levels. You can also find influencers’ previous partnerships and check their posts for transparent sponsorship disclosure.
An eye for honest, transparent influencers won’t just endear you to the FTC. Choosing influencers with an authentic vibe has always been a good idea. Authentic influencers tend to have followers who trust them.
Why is this a good thing? Because followers who trust an influencer are far more likely to try your brand at her suggestion.
The more info you have upfront, the easier it is to choose influencers who are in alignment with your brand voice. These influencers are likely to become loyal fans — and transform their followers into loyal fans too.
Tip #6: Use Prominent Placement: It’s Preferred
Disclosures must be prominently placed so that the consumer is sure to see them. Place them at the top of your post or caption, and make sure they are easy-to-read. Never place disclosure information on top of a background that makes it difficult for consumers to read.
Hashtag disclosures should come first so that they can be seen without clicking on “more…”
Furthermore, if you are posting on Instagram, please do not rely on the “in partnership with” feature. This is a convenient, additional means of alerting consumers to sponsored posts but still may not always be enough to constitute full disclosure.
If your post is a video post, make sure disclosure happens within the first few seconds of the video, as in this Yahoo! Sports sponsored video by Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. It’s a great idea when posting a video to also add hashtag disclosures in the comments section.
Time Spent Learning About FTC Guidelines is an Investment
When FTC guidelines are not adhered to, brands may incur legal and financial penalties that diminish campaign earnings. Why take chances that might allow this to happen?
Influencer marketing is entering its adolescence, so it’s time to lay down the law now before burdensome legal and financial issues arise.
Make clear and specific rules for your influencer partners to follow at the beginning of your partnership. Monitor your campaigns and ensure that your influencer-partners are posting branded content that is compliant as well as engaging.