Navigating Influencer Marketing and FTC Guidelines (Part 1)
By Bobby Johnson
September 6, 2023
By Bobby Johnson
September 6, 2023
Influencer marketing is some of the most effective marketing out there, which is why it’s a $13.8 billion dollar industry.
But as with any wildly successful marketing strategy, influencer marketing can be abused, hurting not only consumers but the brands and personalities partnering together. The FTC has recently put into effect sweeping changes to its rules about how influencer marketing can work, and brands need to know how to navigate these tricky waters.
In part 1 of this guide, we’ll be looking at the FTC changes and the latest “do’s” and “don’ts” of influencer marketing.
Though we’ve done the research ourselves and are pulling from experts in the field, we have to say it: this blog isn’t legal advice in any way. Alright, now let’s get into what’s new.
“When brands and influencers follow the FTC guidelines, they are protecting themselves from potential legal consequences and a reputation for manipulating consumers. As a brand, it’s important to maintain transparency and trust with your audience, allowing potential consumers to make informed choices about products and services they are thinking of purchasing. Partnering with the right influencer who follows the guidelines and has developed a genuine relationship with their audience will help foster trust in your brand.” – Kira Smelser, Social Media and Content Manager
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a wide reach and many purposes, but its primary job is consumer protection. The reason why they regulate influencer marketing practices (amongst other forms of marketing) is to limit deceptive advertising.
As of June 29th, 2023, the FTC has made changes to its “endorsement guidelines,” which govern spokespeople and obviously influencers. These changes are significant, adding and expanding previous protections. But, the three main pillars of the new FTC strategy are:
Revised Endorsement Guides. The revised Endorsement Guides address review manipulations, incentivized reviews, and liability concerns.
Proposed Rule on Consumer Reviews. This rule would target tactics like fake reviews, reviews from competitors, and insider testimonials.
Updated Guidance. The FTC has helpfully created a guide for navigating their new rules, which is available for perusal (which we recommend).
All brands and influencers should review that material closely before their next campaign. But until then, let’s go over the basics.
The simple truth of how to stay FTC-friendly is the same advice our moms gave us in elementary school: be yourself. Essentially, tell the truth.
And don’t hide your connections.
Of course, influencer strategy is slightly more complicated. The FTC guidelines are many, and again we advise reading them in total, but here are a few quick and easy “do’s and don’ts” to get you started.
Disclose review exchanges. If an influencer has agreed to get a free product in exchange for a review, they need to say that. And it needs to be part of your strategy for them to disclose that information.
Create authentic partnerships. Consumers value authenticity by itself, both in the brands they consider and the influencers they listen to. When the partnership between a brand and an influencer is natural, there’s no reason to hide it anyway, and that authenticity only builds trust with a consumer.
Choose the right influencer. Brands and influencers agree on strategies, yes, but you have to choose an influencer who knows the score. The influencer needs to be up on the regulations, they need to take them seriously, and they need to be as committed as you are to playing things above board.
And influencer who is more laissez-faire about these guidelines could get you in trouble.
Hide an endorsement. Hiding a brand/influencer relationship could always damage consumer relationships, and now with increased FTC regulations, it’s more likely to draw attention (and fines). Make sure the influencer is disclosing their content as an ad or a part of a brand sponsorship.
Be coy about disclosure. The new FTC guidelines suggest that the disclosure systems built into different social media and retail platforms may not be sufficient. Ads, sponsorships, and partnerships need to be stated in clear and conspicuous language in all influencer materials.
This is doubly important for products targeted to children, where the FTC has made it clear they expect even greater and more obvious disclosure.
Use your employees as influencers without making it crystal clear. The new guidelines stipulate that “insider testimonials” are under extreme scrutiny. If employees or partners are reviewing the product or services of their own company, they need to disclose their relationship.
“In a world where transparency reigns supreme, aligning brand values with genuine influencers not only adheres to FTC guidelines but also forms the cornerstone of meaningful connections with our audience.” – Alexa Sorensen, Digital Marketing Specialist
Transparency and authenticity are this week’s key watchwords for brands looking to stay compliant with the new FTC regulations. Next week we’ll get into finding the right influencer for you, how to collaborate with them to create fresh and compliant campaigns, and how to measure success.
While you wait for next week’s in-depth influencer strategies, feel free to reach out to Inspira Marketing today with any questions you have.
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