The GFM team members who oversee the majority of our influencer programs work hard to be as mindful and compliant as possible with the ever-evolving FTC regulations around social media ads and sponsored content. Last August we penned a blog post on this very topic, and here we are again with more news about how the FTC continues to crack down on brands and influencers, sometimes being very unclear in the full scope of its rules. And this conversation extends beyond creative social media content all the way to Google and SEO impact—check out our SEO expert Brooke Willard’s Google tagging instructions for bloggers reviewing free products if you haven’t already.
Where marketers and advertisers need to pay closest attention to disclosures isn’t just on blog posts anymore. In my opinion, most savvy bloggers, and even the majority of hobby bloggers, know to clearly disclose any payment or free product received when crafting a review. Some still struggle with placement of the disclosure – we prefer to see it clearly called out at the top of a post – but in general this has become a standard practice.
The lines blur tremendously when you move away from blogs and into the realm of social media, especially on Twitter (given character limits) and Snapchat (because of space the short nature of the videos). And this is where the FTC is scrutinizing the most.
Even with the best of intentions, brands and influencers (though right now the onus is on advertisers) could be in the wrong when simple mistakes are made regarding the placement and clarity of disclosures. For example, #ad needs to be at the very beginning of a caption rather than buried in a strong of hashtags at the end of a post. Abbreviations for “sponsored” such as #sp and #spon, according to the FTC, may be confusing to consumers and therefore, in violation.
Whether your influencer campaign is multilayered and complex across various platforms, or extremely straightforward in the form of a sample or two, air on the side of caution and scrutinize all of the content being created through a careful lens. Do not hesitate to go back to an influencer and ask them to add or move around hashtags regarding payment or sponsorship. If you are really unclear on whether or not a piece of content is in potential violation, check with your legal counsel or consider having it taken down.
As traditional media and advertising mediums wane, and influencer marketing continues to mature, we will be continuously refining just how to get it right—right for gorgeous content, right for search, right for regulators, and so on.