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Since the dawn of influencer marketing, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other regulation bodies around the world have aimed at taking definitive action to regulate the way influencers, and the brands they partner with, market to consumers. With influencer marketing nestled in the grey area between paid and owned media, it has been hard for consumers to tell which influencer recommendations are genuine and which have a brand incentive tied to it.
In the US, brands have experienced the consequences of the FTC's regulations in numerous ways over the last few years. In 2016, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc. reached a settlement with the FTC on charges that it deceived consumers during a marketing campaign, for the video game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, by failing to disclose that they had paid online influencers thousands of dollars to post positive gaming videos on YouTube. Warner Bros. is not alone in this, as retailer Lord & Taylor and gaming company CSGO Lotto have also reached settlements with the FTC.
According to the FTC, all brands must disclose payments to influencers and cannot misrepresent sponsored content as being unbiased. As a brand, you can stay within the FTC's influencer marketing guidelines by telling your influencers to properly disclose their sponsored posts through the use of #ad or #sponsored, among others.
However, as a brand, how do you make sure your influencers are in fact disclosing sponsored posts? Sure, you can monitor a few influencers during a one-off campaign, but how do you do it if you're working with hundreds - or even thousands - of influencers?
This challenge has become more prevalent in recent years as many of the world's largest enterprises have started to engage in influencer marketing across brands, departments and geographies. With so many moving pieces and no centralized system to monitor for influencer disclosure, the chance of getting flagged by the FTC or other governing bodies increases significantly.
One marketer at a global enterprise who I spoke with recently was tasked with solving this very problem. She had to find a way to track all influencer activity across 14+ brands to ensure FTC compliance. With thousands of influencers talking about her brands at any given time, this was a daunting task.
So, as a large enterprise, how do you continue to capitalize on influencer marketing while protecting yourself against fines and public scrutiny? Here are three techniques we've seen our most successful enterprise customers utilize when it comes to guarding against FTC sanctions.
Depending on the structure of an enterprise, it is not uncommon for brands to operate independently from each other. This includes when brands are engaging with influencers. It is even possible for some brands within an enterprise to work with the same influencers without knowing the other has an existing relationship. This type of miscommunication can lead to lapses in monitoring for influencer compliance.
Without brands communicating with each other or the enterprise corporate team knowing which influencers each of their brands is working with, there is bound to be risk. The key is to bridge the communication gap between the corporate team and the brands so that everyone involved knows which influencers are being activated.
A recurring theme we see that has led to compliance issues is that many enterprises don't appoint any one person or team to be responsible for influencer compliance. In many organizations there are social media managers or influencer relations specialists who are in charge of finding, managing and growing influencer relationships, but rarely are these same people able to monitor all influencer posts for FTC compliance.
With influencer posts scattered across multiple social channels and running at any time of day, it is nearly impossible to catch all of their posts. There's simply too much on their plate.
One successful technique leveraged by many top enterprises is to centralize influencer compliance to one person or team that has visibility across all influencer activities. In most cases, these teams are not responsible for the activation of influencers but specifically monitoring them. This focus allows them to create a process that is manageable and repeatable. It makes the most sense to have this person or team sit outside of the brands, as this will give them the visibility and exposure to monitor influencers effectively.
The final key to monitoring influencers at scale is to utilize technology to track influencer activities seamlessly. The most advanced influencer marketers have put in place a centralized tracking system that allows their team to monitor the entire influencer program all in one location.
This saves valuable time and resources as the team no longer has to scour various social channels and blogs to monitor for influencer disclosures, but instead can have reports set up that will do the work for them. One of the best practices we've seen is for the corporate team to have a compliance dashboard setup that displays influencer compliance reports for each brand in one location.
By utilizing the right technology to monitor influencer compliance an enterprise can quickly spot which influencers are forgetting to disclose a sponsored post and act quickly to avoid FTC sanctions. Don't fall to the same fate as Warner Bro's or Lord & Taylor. Take FTC Compliance seriously and set your brands up for influencer marketing success.
Traackr's Influencer Relationship Management Platform is built to help enterprise customers solve this critical compliance challenge. Traackr's technology helps influencer marketers to monitor influencer content across the entire spectrum of their social profile and in doing so creates an easy way to track for FTC compliance. With the ability to track what influencers do and do not include in their posts, Traackr allows you to see when influencers are using proper disclosures (i.e #ad, #sponsored) and when they are not.
Perhaps even more importantly, Traackr enables you to do this at scale. Set up your compliance dashboard for each brand involved in influencer marketing and unlock the ability to monitor thousands of influencers all in one place.
For more information about how Traackr can help your organization monitor influencer disclosures please contact us below.