FTC Tells Social Media Influencers: Disclose if You’re Paid

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued new guidance on how and when social media influencers must disclose their connections with paid endorsers.

Its new guide, “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers,” makes clear that when an influencer endorses a product through social media, he or she must clearly disclose if they have a “material connection” with the brand.

According to the agency, a “material connection” includes “a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship—such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services.”

“As an influencer, it’s your responsibility to make these disclosures, to be familiar with the Endorsement Guides, and to comply with laws against deceptive ads,” says the guide. “Don’t rely on others to do it for you.… Don’t assume your followers already know about your brand relationships.”

It notes that “tags, likes, pins, and similar ways of showing you like a brand or product are endorsements.”

The disclosures must be “hard to miss,” the FTC says, and “placed with the endorsement message itself.”

“Disclosures are likely to be missed if they appear only on an About Me or profile page, at the end of posts or videos, or anywhere that requires a person to click MORE,” it warns. “Don’t mix your disclosure into a group of hashtags or links.”

It also gives the following words of caution for influencers:

– “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.”

It also notes that these rules apply even to those not in the United States.

“If posting from abroad, U.S. law applies if it’s reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect U.S. consumers,” says the Guide.

The new publication summarizes the FTC’s prior guidance, including its Endorsement Guides and a question-and-answer guide.

The agency also summarized its guidance in a video:

 

The FTC recently charged a skin care company with commissioning employees to write reviews of its products without disclosing their connection to the company.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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JCK News Director