FTC Guidelines for Influencer Marketing: Everything You Need to Know
In August, the Federal Trade Commission finalized updated guidelines for influencers — the first official update since 2009. Now, the FTC is cracking down on influencers and brands to make sure they disclose sponsored content properly, recently issuing warnings to dozens of influencers and two food and beverage trade associations for endorsing the safety of aspartame or consumption of artificial sweeteners.
As the influencer marketing industry continues to grow and evolve, it’s becoming increasingly important to properly disclose sponsorships in order to avoid risks of misinformation. So, here’s everything you need to know about the new FTC guidelines going forward.
How to adhere to updated FTC guidelines
While influencers have always been required to disclose sponsorships clearly, the policies were rather vague and not always enforced. The updated guidelines from the FTC detail exactly how influencers should disclose brand partnerships. Here’s the skinny.
When to disclose
Influencers need to disclose any relationship they have with a brand, including financial, personal, employment, or family relationships. Note that financial relationships go beyond monetary payment. It also includes gifts, discounts, or any other perks.
However, influencers don’t have to declare that they don’t have a brand relationship if they are organically talking about products that they purchased.
Keep in mind that these US laws can still apply even when posting from abroad, if it’s “reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect US consumers.”
How to disclose
It’s no longer enough to bury #ad in a pile of hashtags at the end of a post. Disclosures need to be placed so that they are hard to miss. The FTC breaks down how to disclose partnerships based on content type:
- Photos (particularly on Snapchat and Instagram Stories): Influencers must superimpose the disclosure over the picture and make sure viewers have enough time to notice and read it.
- Videos: Influencers need to include the disclosure in the video — not just in the description uploaded with the video. The FTC also advises that influencers make descriptions in both audio and video, as some viewers may watch without sound while others may not notice the superimposed words on the screen.
- Live streams: Influencers need to repeat the disclosure periodically throughout the live stream so that viewers who only see part of the stream can still get the disclosure.
Additionally, influencers must make the disclosure simple and clear, with explanations like, “Thanks to [Brand] for the free products,” or terms like “advertisement” and “sponsored.” Stray away from using vague or confusing terms like “spon” or “collab” or standalone terms like “thanks” or “ambassador.”
What this means for influencers and marketers
While some say these updates may negatively impact engagement on influencer content, we believe the new FTC guidelines are a positive step towards better, more authentic campaigns — which will ultimately produce higher returns.
As you plan your 2024 influencer marketing campaigns, focus on two key aspects to keep up your engagement:
1. Finding the right creators
Do your due diligence to find the right creators, who meet this criteria:
- Their audience matches your ideal customer profile.
- Their organic content fits your brand’s messaging, mission, and the like.
- They consistently have sincere engagement on their posts.
- They can tell your brand’s story in an authentic way.
- Their content aligns with your brand’s aesthetic.
By working with well-aligned creators, your brand partnership will maintain the authenticity that consumers seek today, even when your influencer’s endorsements are clearly labeled as an #ad.
2. Producing authentic content
Give creators enough creative freedom to produce sponsored content that aligns well with their personal brand. If done right, their audience will not mind — or sometimes not even notice — that their content is sponsored.
Then, you can repurpose their content into high-converting paid ads that don’t even look like advertisements. In fact, 55% of users say that TikTok Spark Ads, which are clearly labeled as “sponsored,” fits seamlessly into their feed, and better yet, 53% say it doesn’t feel like an ad.
As the FTC pays closer attention to influencer-brand relationships, it’s time to overhaul your influencer strategy to focus on true authenticity. Need support for your 2024 campaign planning? Get in touch with us.