In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, maintaining transparency and trust between consumers and influencers has never been more important. Recognizing this, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regularly revises its guidelines to ensure endorsement practices remain fair, honest, and transparent. On June 29th, the FTC introduced several updates to its endorsement guides, providing clearer guidelines for marketers and influencers that may lead to a major strategic shift in social media marketing.
Firstly, the FTC addressed disclosure practices on social media platforms. The newest update requires influencers to disclose their material connections more prominently and unambiguously. The use of hashtags like #ad, #sponsored, or #paidpartnership is no longer considered sufficient. The FTC suggests that influencers superimpose much larger text over their videos to clearly indicate when a post is sponsored. Merely tagging a brand in a post is not enough, as the FTC emphasizes that it could be interpreted as the influencer simply liking the brand.
Furthermore, the FTC clarified that if an influencer criticizes a competing brand, they must disclose any brand partnerships they have when making critical posts. This aims to promote fairness in the marketplace.
In the case of influencers who are contracted to promote a product but do not explicitly say anything positive about it, they still need to disclose their partnership. The FTC states that a mere post of a product can imply endorsement, necessitating disclosure.
When an influencer uses or reviews multiple products from different brands, they must disclose which products are sponsored and which are not. A blanket statement such as “a few of these products are sponsored” is insufficient according to the FTC.
The FTC also declared that hyperlinks leading to full-length disclosures are inadequate, as they can be easily avoided. Disclosures in comment sections or at the bottom of blog posts or advertorials are not sufficient either. The FTC requires clear and conspicuous disclosures.
Avoiding writing a disclosure by using terms like “thank you brand” or “gifted” is also deemed inadequate. Instead, influencers should clearly state their partnership, such as saying “thanks brand X for gifting me Y product.”
Companies themselves are subject to the updates as well. For example, they may not send review links selectively to satisfied customers or request the removal of negative reviews. Such actions skew the favorability of reviews and are considered misleading by the FTC.
Finally, companies must ensure that influencers disclose any gifts received and provide guidance on how to disclose the partnership, including tagging the brand in a post.
It’s important to note that foreign businesses creating content to be seen in the U.S. must also comply with these updates if it is reasonably foreseeable that the content will reach the U.S. audience.
These updates were made with the best interests of consumers in mind, aiming to enhance transparency, clarity, and fairness in digital marketing. While there may be pushback from companies, specific brands, and influencers, the FTC believes that these changes will have a positive impact on consumers and their buying habits.