From the Influencers

FTC to Influencers: Disclose Relationships for Endorsements

April 21, 2017

The Federal Trade Commission this week revealed that it has sent more than 90 letters to so-called social media influencers. These communications reminded these athletes, celebrities, and others that truth in advertising standards apply to Instagram just as they do to other forms of media.

That means influencers must disclose relationships with brands for which they endorse or otherwise help promote products or services on Instagram, the FTC said. “The legal responsibility for disclosing the relationship between an influencer and a brand is a two-way street,” Lesley Fair wrote in an April 19 FTC blog. “Influencers should clearly let people know about that connection and marketers have an obligation to make sure they do – usually by educating their influencers and monitoring what the influencers are doing on their behalf.”

The blog went on to say that an effective disclosure on Instagram will keep disclosures unambiguous, make disclosures hard to miss, and avoid placing the disclosures in a string of difficult to read hashtags.

The FTC also provided a sample version of the letters it sent out. Here’s an excerpt from that sample letter: “Consumers should be able to notice the disclosure easily, and not have to look for it,” the letter from Mary K. Engle, associate director of the division of advertising practices within the FTC, says. “For example, consumers viewing posts in their Instagram streams on mobile devices typically see only the first three lines of a longer post unless they click ‘more,’ and many consumers may not click ‘more.’ Therefore, you should disclose any material connection above the ‘more’ button. In addition, where there are multiple tags, hashtags, or links, readers may just skip over them, especially where they appear at the end of a long post.”

Edited by Alicia Young

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