It’s no surprise marketers love collaborating with social media influencers: research shows that 58 percent of consumers have bought a product because an influencer recommended it, and a whopping 89 percent of marketers say ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other tactics.
It makes sense; social media personalities have spent a lot of time and effort investing in their individual branding. Because they’ve cultivated followers who are interested in their lives, perspectives and preferences, when they engage with a product or service, it feels like the experience is coming from a friend, not a paid spokesperson.
However, that’s exactly what they are, and the FTC has recently issued new guidelines for how influencers portray their collaborations, both paid and unpaid. The consumer protection organization puts the onus on the influencers to share when content is sponsored, reminding them, “as an influencer, it’s your responsibility to make these disclosures, to be familiar with the Endorsement Guides, and to comply with laws against deceptive ads. Don’t rely on others to do it for you.”
What’s more, whenever influencers recommend or endorse something, they should now specify any kind of relationship — even when there’s no money involved. Examples include featuring businesses run by family or friends, or when a company provides free or discounted products in exchange for content.
Labeling the content as being sponsored is pretty straightforward. Most importantly, the disclosure should be easy to see and understandable. For pictures, the FTC says to superimpose the disclosure over the picture to make sure viewers notice it. In videos, mention the relationship in the video itself, both audibly and visually. For live streaming, repeat the information a few times so even if viewers only see part of the stream, they’ll be more likely to get it.
When it comes to exactly what language to use, again let common sense prevail. Don’t make up new terms or abbreviations such as “spon” or “sp” for “sponsored,” and simply saying “Thanks, Company XYZ!” without specifying it’s sponsored a post isn’t enough.
All of these guidelines are in place to protect consumers from unfair business practices. As marketers, it’s our job to properly vet influencers before working with them to ensure they’ll be good stewards of the brand.
The bottom line is that influencer marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, some sources estimate the influencer marketing industry is going to hit $10 billion by next year. A good rule of thumb is to peruse influencers’ feeds before inquiring about partnership opportunities. See how they’re portraying these relationships… if you, wearing your consumer hat, can clearly discern which content is sponsored, it’s a good sign to move forward.