FTC finally presents Influencer-friendly disclosure guide
To set the record straight, if there is anyone still in doubt of social media influence and in particular, with the influencer marketing, the following data should help:
‘In 2018, the global influencer marketing platform market was valued at 137 million U.S. dollars. It is expected to further grow to 162 million in 2020 and surpass 370 million dollars in 2027. The influencer marketing platforms are used in search and discovery of clients, campaign management, influencer relationship management, as well as analytics and reporting.’ according to statista.com.
‘What was once reserved for fashion magazines is now the prime income of regular tech-savvy people with an entrepreneurial spirit. The problem with social media collaborations between influencers and brands is that they are not disclosed properly. There is nothing wrong with advertising, it has always been present and will continue to be, as long as it is clear that the message is advertising.
Unfortunately, the blogging society, ever-growing, has no proper education in the field of media and ethics. This has been overlooked for long enough.’ (Influencers decoded)
Now, that we’ve settled that influencers are going nowhere and in fact, their share of the market is increasing in the foreseeable years. This is the time, we make sure that influencers are not lost as a marketing means but instead brought back to transparency and keep meeting their followers’ expectations for transparency.
What I mean by marketing means is that brands will not get away for much longer with using influencers as billboards. As a matter of fact, if you are a brand owner, disclosing properly your advertising can only bring you closer to your customers. It is time to use the full potential of influencer marketing, which can unable loyal customer base.*
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been monitoring Influencers and even send out more than 90 letters to influencers and marketers as a warning. Nonetheless, companies are still avoiding proper disclosure and Influencers have been too busy to go through the guidelines.
Luckily, even though nothing has changed, the FTC has made it very easy to grasp the main points in their ‘Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers‘ made visually apeling and summarising the main points. Basically, you should ‘make sure people will see and understand the disclosure’.
The easiest way is to ‘place it so it’s hard to miss’ or in other words, if it’s in the copy of a post, it is best to start by stating your relationship with the company. Whether, as an influencer, you are getting paid for the post/story/ video or receive products for free/discounted price, this information should be shared with whoever might see your endorsement.
It comes as a no-brainer but let us mention it:
- You can’t talk about your experience with a product you haven’t tried.
- If you’re paid to talk about a product and thought it was terrible, you can’t say it’s terrific.
- You can’t make up claims about a product that would require proof the advertiser doesn’t have – such as scientific proof that a product can treat a health condition. (from the FTC guide)
We might see an increase in products being advertised through CGI’s and top models but this should not be a concern for small businesses. Creating real connection and trust among your audience/clients are influencers and businesses prime tasks.
Hence, to secure your business disclosures should come to the front of the conversation. Facebook solved a few problems with adding just one feature, which many are still reluctant to use. I believe the conversation should be shifted towards the gains coming with proper disclosures.
Collaborations with brands are the main income for many influencers. Having that in mind, there is nothing wrong with stating what influencers are receiving. Letting the audience know how the brand is treating their ambassadors (employees).
When influencers are stating truthfully how they feel about a product or service, the given brand gets an honest review that can be used to further develop their business. At the same time, this is an opportunity for new consumers and you don’t want to plant unreachable expectations or have a backlash in any way if spreading deceiving information.
Last, but not least, I believe that Facebook has come up with one of the best tools for helping and protecting businesses. When they made available the ‘Paid partnership with [business partner]’ it became a clean way of stating right away that what the user sees next is paid content.
At the same time, the feature allows the company sponsoring the post to receive live data. They are seeing the reach and engagement (likes and comments) from their collaboration right away.
The feature enables businesses to monitor the outcome of their campaign in Facebook Page Insights, not having to wait for the influencer to report back later. For Instagram Stories when tagged with the ‘Paid partnership with [business partner]’ companies can see in a 14-day window stats like reach, taps forward, taps backward, replies, and exits.
The feature allows for better transparency between companies and influencers. Also, it gives some control over the message as the post goes through ‘Partner Approval’ which, if switched on, allows the company to preapprove or disapprove the sponsored post before it is published.
As good as this feature is for business, FTC is not fully satisfied as they are concerned that since the disclaimer is on top of the image, viewers may miss it. Thus, a specific clarification is needed in the captions.
*Do you want to learn more about how to leverage social media influencers in the context of leading and developing a luxury fashion brand and enhance your marketing and PR strategies? You can find my full research on the topic at ResearchGate.