In an era where influencer marketing is on its way up, organizations like the US Federal Trade Commission are keeping a close eye on the situation and providing guidance wherever it’s possible. According to US law, any endorsement of a brand potentially selling its products to US customers requires clear disclosure.
To emphasize this point, the FTC released a guide [PDF] on Tuesday called Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers. Within the guide, readers are greeted with a simple introduction to US commerce law regarding endorsements and several simple rules that apply specifically to various situations on social media, including video content and images.
“Many consumers rely upon influencer recommendations in making purchasing decisions, and they should know when a brand paid an influencer for an endorsement, because it affects the weight and credibility the consumers may give to that endorsement,” said FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection staff attorney Michael Atleson in a statement reported by the NPR.
Atleson added that this document isn’t necessarily legally enforced, but nonetheless was designed to help influencers operate well within FTC’s acceptable legal boundaries.
The agency’s guide warns influencers not to rely entirely on the tools a platform provides for them to disclose their relationships and instead check that their audiences can see disclosures adequately.
It’s apparently not enough to put a #ad hashtag on Instagram. Influencers should also, according to the guide, place disclosures “within the endorsement message itself.”
The FTC’s current agenda with the guide does not appear to require addressing any pervasive deceptive marketing issues. Instead, the agency appears to be offering a helping hand to the growing list of medium-level influencers that are appearing on various multimedia platforms.
A recent study, by eAccountable, found that 95% of influencers with audiences between 10,000 and 100,000 believed that their disclosures of relationships with brands do not hamper their credibility with followers.
The fact that so many of them embrace the rules they operate under suggests that they are likely to take what they learn from the FTC’s guide and use it rather than disregard it.
Ultimately, transparency in advertising will not only help breed trust between influencers and their followers, but also expand further into helping build trust between the platforms they operate in and the users that visit them.