A following is a must when it comes to influencer marketing; one follower that can be alarming however is the FTC. You probably know influencer marketing is a type of advertising. In fact, it’s one of the most trusted types of advertising. As ZDNET reported, one-third of millennials and members of “Generation Z” trust the words and opinions of an influencer, specifically what an influencer says about a brand, more than they trust a brand itself. That’s why understanding FTC influencer marketing is so important.

Disclosing when a partnerships with a brand is part of a paid advertisement is a good way to maintain trust with consumers. Disclosure isn’t only important for maintaining trust with an audience. A critical part is making sure your brand’s influencer marketing projects stay in line with the guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

What Is The Role of FTC Influencer Marketing?

This U.S. regulatory agency has the best interests of consumers at heart. According to its website, it works to protect consumers by preventing unfair and deceptive business practices. It aims to enhance informed consumer choice and the public’s understanding of the competitive process, too.

When it comes to FTC influencer marketing, the FTC is concerned about truth in advertising. It doesn’t want influencers to mislead their followers, either accidentally or on purpose. To make sure consumer, the brand, and the influencer are on the same page, the FTC requires influencers to announce any connections they have to a particular brand.

What Are Guidelines for FTC Influencer Marketing?

Although you might hear a lot of complaints about the FTC influencer marketing guidelines, they are not so onerous. Did you know that when a blogger, vlogger or influencer posts something they received from a brand for free , they have to reveal the connection with said brand to the audience.

An influencer can reveal his or her connection to a brand through the content of the post itself. For example, as Dummies notes, a blogger can state that a brand sent a product for free and that he or she is giving the product a try. Since the connection between the brand and the blogger is clear, there’s no need for an additional disclosure. This type of disclosure wouldn’t be sufficient if the blogger got the product for free and got paid for the work.

Some influencers prefer to keep things simple and don’t necessarily want to spell out the details of their partnership with a brand. The FTC’s OK with that, as long as the disclosure is clear and upfront. Typing three little characters, #ad, before the start of a tweet or Instagram caption is usually sufficient disclosure.

It’s worth remembering that FTC Influencer Marketing is also concerned about the placement of the disclosure, as noted in the agency’s endorsement guidelines. Putting “#ad” at the start of a post is legit, “#ad” buried in a sea of hashtags or appearing after the “more” on an Instagram caption isn’t.

These quick tips will help you follow FTC influencer marketing disclosure rules:

Disclose first

Put it at the top of your post or caption.

Hashtags are fine

As long as they’re clear. For example, using #ad is your best bet because it leaves no room for questioning.

Give the full story

Don’t just say you got something for free if a brand also paid you.

#thanks isn’t enough

While it’s polite to thank a brand partner, that’s not going to cut it with the FTC.

What Are the Benefits of Following FTC Influencer Marketing Guidelines?

There are several benefits that come from following the FTC. One of the biggest benefits, is it keeps the FTC off your back, whether you’re an influencer or a brand. In April 2017, the FTC sent out more than 90 letters to influencers and marketers, reminding them of the disclosure rules.

Following the FTC’s rules keeps you on the right side of the law. If a brand or influencer violates the guidelines, it can face a fine or legal action.

Trust the FTC to Create Trust

Another benefit of following the FTC’s guidelines is doing so helps followers see your influencer marketing is trustworthy. Trust is the foundation to any relationship. When influencers clearly make the connection between themselves and a brand, there’s less of a chance a follower will distrust the influencer.

Steps to Take to Ensure Your Influencer Marketing Is FTC-Compliant

Here’s what you can do to make sure your influencer marketing follows the FTC’s guidelines:

Know when to disclose

Money isn’t everything. If you’re related to the influencer in some way or have given that person a gift (not one of your brand’s products), he or she needs to reveal that connection to the audience.

Create rules for disclosure

Be upfront and clear with your influencers about the importance of disclosure in any posts they create for you. You can decide on the type of disclosure to use, such as #ad or “paid for by brand X.” Just make it plain to any influencer you work with that a disclosure isn’t optional.

Get the placement right

Disclosure needs to come first. Bloggers create blog posts about brands that give them free products or monetary compensation. However, because of this that person has to disclose who sponsored or paid at the top of the post.

In social media posts, the hashtag disclosure needs to come first. If your influencers create videos, they need to put the disclosure at the start of the video, not the end. If a follower has to hunt for the disclosure, it’s not in the right spot.

Don’t rely on the “In Partnership With” feature

Instagram and other social networks now offer an “in partnership with” or “paid partnership with” option when influencers create posts. While that feature can be convenient, it’s not always enough for full disclosure, according to the FTC.

Making sure your brand is following the FTC’s influencer marketing guidelines will help you avoid legal hassle. It can also help you avoid a hit to your reputation, that can occur if people find out your influencers haven’t been fully honest about their partnerships.

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