Audiences sometimes have challenges identifying sponsored content from organic posts on social networks and other platforms. These perceptions may have an impact on the actions viewers take as a result. In response to this, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – the U.S. Government Agency that oversees truth in advertising – is taking a stronger stance on the importance of proper disclosures in social media activities. In particular, they’re taking a closer look at influencer campaigns, competitions, and activities that many brands have come to adopt as standard practice in their social marketing. Here’s a closer look at the new disclosure regulations and what brands need to know about this important issue.
Transparency: The FTC’s Underlying Point
It’s critical for brands to always act ethically in their marketing and to disclose relationships clearly. That’s the core point of the FTC’s recent attention to disclosures. As the online context has become more sophisticated and evolved, the FTC’s regulations have had to change and mature in order to keep up. The last time the regulations were updated was 2010, so it’s easy to see how much change has happened since. The key message is that material relationships like compensation and free products need to be “clearly and conspicuously” noted between endorsers and brands. The underlying theme is transparency. Instead of offering general guidelines, the FTC is now paying closer attention to how the execution of these issues is handled.
One campaign of note is the FTC’s first official settlement with an ad agency on these very issues, whose employees tweeted about a new Sony gaming device on their personal accounts without disclosing their relationship to the brand. There was also a warning letter sent to Cole Haan about a Pinterest competition, which invited followers to post pins in order to enter to win a monetary prize. Because it was a competition, said the FTC, that needed to be disclosed in the pins that were shared by brand fans.
What Does This Mean for Influencer Marketing Execution?
There are several practical applications that companies need to be aware of in their own social media and social video activities. Here are some tips for execution:
Contests: Contests and sweepstakes are a staple in the social media world, to get sharing and uptake. It’s important that it be clear that participants are taking part in a contest. Stating in your competition rules that entries must include a hashtag such as #contest, #contestentry or #sweepstakes is a good start.
Influencers: Whether you’re working with celebrity spokespeople or talented content creators, it’s important that these individuals disclose their relationship to your firm. Some examples could be using the hashtag #sponsored, #advertisement, or even #ad.
Social video: On video platforms, it’s not enough to note that it is advertising in the details page (such as on YouTube), although it should be included there. It’s also important that the fact be noted at the beginning and end of the video – and periodically throughout for long pieces.
Client relationships: If you’re tweeting content that you created for a client or of an organization that you’re affiliated with, it’s important to disclose it in some way. It could be in the text of your tweet, or by including some sort of hashtag such as #client. This point is very relevant for services brands.
Making Smart Choices for Your Brand
One study showed that almost 30% of marketers were unaware of any guidelines, and just 10% understood the latest FTC details. As a result, it’s important to make educated choices for your brand or you could find yourself with unwanted government scrutiny, bad press, and even fines. The first step is to review and understand the latest guidelines, and create internal policies that all your campaigns must follow. Recognize that these guidelines will change and evolve in the years ahead and stay updated on the latest version.
It’s also critical that you exercise discretion when choosing advertising agencies and partners that you work with. For example, if you’re collaborating with influencer marketing agencies from outside the U.S., they’re unlikely to follow the same guidelines as U.S. firms. One way to avoid potential problems is to work with an experienced agency such as fullbottle. Fullbottle has a strict policy of always noting that content is #sponsored. Contrary to some concerns that businesses may have, this kind of transparency builds trust and relationships and doesn’t erode campaign effectiveness.
Are you interested in learning more about how transparent influencer marketing could help your brand? Contact fullbottle today to learn more about our solutions and services.