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FTC Updated Influencer Guidelines: What Do They Mean For Influencer Marketing?

Dec 3, 2019

This month the FTC released updated Endorsement guidelines for advertisers and its first ever creator-friendly brochure aimed directly at social media influencers. This isn’t the first time they’ve acknowledged influencers, they’ve been doing so since 2016. So what has changed, and how do these guidelines impact your influencer marketing efforts? We sat down for a casual conversation with Traackr’s in-house counsel to discuss. Please note, this article is not intended to be construed as legal advice from Traackr, or its legal team. 

Who should be paying attention?
The guidelines are directed at creators, but brands should also be paying attention, as the relationships are contingent upon one another. It’s really important that brands help support influencers they partner with. Brand reputation is often tied up with influencers, so it’s an asset they should be actively protecting. 

Why is a disclosure required? 
The purpose of the disclosure is to provide transparency for the digital consumer. To that effect, the guidelines state that disclosure is required whenever a creator has a financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with the brand. The guidelines also state that disclosure should be done in a way that is hard for the digital consumer to miss, and that the language used should be clear and simple.  

How is this different from the last time the FTC released guidelines?
The purpose appears to have remained the same, however the guidelines should serve as a reminder to anyone promoting a particular product or brand on social media in exchange for a benefit that there is a clear requirement to disclosure that the promotion is being sponsored. The difference here is the emphasis on social media influencers. Social media influencers, unlike large established Brands, often do not have an internal compliance department they can leverage. I believe that by publishing creator friendly guidelines, the FTC is acknowledging this while also making it clear that ignorance will no longer be tolerated.  

There are so many different disclosure variations. Are there any resources influencers should look to when determining best practices when it comes to disclosure?
Yes! Check these helpful resources out..

What could happen if you fail to comply? 
The guidelines are not regulations, but if advertisers fail to comply, it could result in an official investigation by the FTC. Aside from legal and compliance concerns, this could result in PR issues for the advertiser and brand. 

Does disclosing an #ad lower an influencer’s engagement rate?
This is actually a myth. At Traackr, we have found that it ultimately comes down to the quality of content, and whether or not the partnership is the right fit for an influencer’s audience.

How do you feel about influencers disclosing when something is NOT sponsored?
I have noticed a trend where influencers are starting to be really explicit about when they are not being paid to sponsor a particular product (but are promoting it). While this additional disclosure is not required I believe it fosters further transparency for consumers. It’s a clear and simple way to help consumers, like me and you, understand the relationship or lack thereof between the influencer and the product or brand they are promoting.

Do the guidelines acknowledge social media platforms disclosure tools (if they offer one)? 
Yes, however the guidelines state that influencers cannot rely solely on these tools when it comes to their disclosure requirements. 

Is there anything else we should know?
The clear acknowledgement of influencer marketing from the FTC is also an acknowledgement of the industry and the momentum influencers have. It gives value and credibility to Influencer Marketing. It legitimizes the market's impact on consumers if the US regulatory body tasked to protect consumers is paying close attention. Ultimately, this is a good thing that should help further foster education and transparency for influencers, brands and consumers. 

Nothing in this article is intended to be, nor should it be construed as legal advice from Traackr or Traackr’s legal team.