So You Wanna Be An Influencer?
The Federal Trade Commission recently published a guide for social media influencers, guiding would-be influencers to provide truthful endorsements and reviews. This guide details what it takes to stay off the FTC’s Naughty List for False Advertisements. Here’s the skinny:
• Provide Clear and Obvious Disclosures of Brand Relationships
Influencers MUST disclose their relationship with a brand or product when they are receiving any form of compensation for their endorsement. Compensation doesn’t just mean making that #cash, but also includes receiving freebies or a deep discount on products and services. The FTC says you should also disclose any other material connections to a brand. This includes if you or a family member works for or owns the business you are endorsing.
Disclosures should be obvious for viewers and should be found in every post that contains an endorsement. Use terms like “sponsored” and “advertisement” in your endorsement to ensure clarity to your viewers and followers.
It’s not always obvious that a blogger or social media poster is affiliated with a certain product or company. If you are providing viewers with a review just because you love a product, no need to disclose. But, if you received some form of compensation for your endorsement, a clear and obvious endorsement is necessary on every post featuring your review. When in doubt, be transparent with your viewers about your relationship to the company!
• Be Truthful
Putting out misleading or untruthful information can cause you serious legal consequences. If you have a relationship with a brand that is contingent upon your endorsement of a product, be truthful in your endorsement. Your review of a product or brand might sway one of your viewers or followers to purchase that product or support a brand (that’s the point of influencers, right?). So, if you’re paid to try a product, don’t say you like it if you really don’t!
• Do Your Research
When promoting a product, don’t make up claims about the pros or cons of that product or service if there is no factual evidence to support your claim. This means that fictional social media influencer Tony should not provide Scalp Strength Shampoo with a raving endorsement, claiming that the product will cure early onset male pattern baldness if Scalp Strength’s parent company has not put in the scientific research to validate that claim.
• Don’t Advertise For A Product You Haven’t Tried
Only provide an endorsement for a product or service that you’ve tried. Providing a review of a product without trying the product is deceptive to other consumers. Your viewers might heavily rely on your opinion of a product or service. It is your responsibility as a social media influencer to provide an endorsement that represents your accurate experience or opinion of a product, which is impossible if you haven’t tried the product!
For more information on truth in advertising and social media influencer liability, check out these resources:
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