Not long ago, when brands thought about FTC compliance, they considered commercials they were producing, magazine ads, and other traditional advertising methods. As brands adopt social media strategies and enlist influencers to create sponsored content, they need to be mindful of disclosure.
Having a plan to avoid FTC penalties protects your business. Additionally, FTC compliance results in consumer trust in your brand, decreasing their likelihood to shop or engage elsewhere.
Three Ways to Ensure FTC Compliance
These three watch outs will help ensure your FTC compliance when partnering with social media influencers to promote your product or service.
1. Facebook: Tread carefully.
Facebook recently expanded access to their branded content tool, allowing influencers to opt in to directly link their posts to brands as opposed to an old-fashioned tag. The upside? This gives the brand access to the post analytics such as reach and engagement. Brands also have the option to share and boost the content. Once an influencer opts in, the label, “Paid,” appears next to the time stamp, recognizing their content as branded, including mentioning the brand name.
But keep in mind the watch out here. Taking advantage of the branded content tool opportunity does NOT mean your influencers are in the clear for FTC disclosure. This feature assists with transparency, but let’s not jump the gun. Facebook says specifically, “Publishers will still be responsible for complying with any relevant advertising regulations in their markets, including providing necessary disclosures indicating the commercial nature of the content they post.” So yes, #ad is still a must for meeting FTC compliance, at least for now.
2. Video Content: Disclose in motion.
In a world where content is king and queen, video is the ultimate boss. As more platforms evolve and create new ways to share video content, updating your FTC disclosure policy is paramount. Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and Snapchat allow users to create content that is essentially temporary. So, when creating Insta stories or Snapchat content, at a great rule of thumb is to disclose at the beginning and again at the end. Why both? Because after 24 hours, that initial disclosure goes away. Also, if viewers tune in after the introduction, they need a mention to recognize that the content reflects a brand partnership.
The FTC specifically states that disclosure on video ads, must be “On the screen long enough to be noticed, read, and understood.” And no, #sp does not cut it! Unlike YouTube video content, where the entire video lives forever, disappearing content requires that you cover your disclosure bases a bit more carefully.
3. Plan Ahead: Set rules for FTC guidelines.
Because the FTC requirements vary by platform and content, a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist. FTC guidelines do provide some room for interpretation, however, that excuse won’t eliminate chances for fines if you inadvertently fail to comply.
Once you’ve determined which type of disclosure is best for the content you’re sharing, be sure to clearly communicate FTC requirements to the influencers on your campaigns. Disclosure shouldn’t be an afterthought. Being upfront with influencers about expectations is just one of the many ways to ensure you stay in the FTC’s good graces.
Why FTC Compliance is Important
For brands asking themselves, “What’s the worst that can happen if I’m not FTC compliant?” In addition, to losing customer loyalty and purchasing power, you can receive rigorous penalties and hefty fines. A recent example? Warner Bros. got in hot water for paying influencers to promote a new game, “Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.” Influencers raved about the product to their viewers but failed to properly disclose brand partnership and compensation. Warner Bros. got off easy with a warning and strict guidelines for any future activations. However, other huge brands have received more than $100 million in fines from the FTC.
The moral of the story? When in doubt, over-disclose. It’s not spammy. It’s trustworthy and will serve your brand better in the long run.