FTC - Comply or Bust!
Ok, first thing’s first. What the heck is the FTC?? FTC stands for Federal Trade Commission. In short, “their responsibility is to prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers; to enhance informed consumer choice and public understanding of the competitive process; and to accomplish this without unduly burdening legitimate business activity”. (ftc.gov)
In Layman’s Terms, the FTC says that Brands have a responsibility to educate their Influencers on the appropriate way to post an ad and Influencers have a responsibility to be transparent with their followers.
So, why am I telling you all about the FTC? Well, Influencer Marketing has always been a sort of grey area in regards to FTC compliance, but not anymore. FTC has noticed that many Influencers are failing to disclose when they are being paid to promote a product or service and they are cracking down! Whether you are new to this whole Influencer Marketing thing or a seasoned professional, we want to be sure you know the ins and outs of FTC compliance.
Don’t panic – there are super easy ways to be sure you are keeping Brand campaign objectives in mind, complying to FTC guidelines AND keeping your followers following!
This past December, FTC issued an enforcement policy statement which said that consumers must be told, in a “clear and conspicuous” way, when a social media post is paid for. So how do you do that without taking away the genuine nature of your posts? I mean, that is the point of Influencer Marketing, right? They could pay anyone to say what they want, but how do you abide to FTC and also maintain the trust of your followers?
The first, and perhaps most simple, way to keep with FTC compliance and keep follower trust is in how you select the Brands you work with. You weren’t born with hundreds of thousands of followers – so, before you became an Influencer, odds are, there were Brands that you liked and habitually used. These are the Brands you want to continue to work with. For example, I am a vegetarian. It is a part of my life that all my followers are, or should be, familiar with. I post from restaurants with primarily vegetarian/vegan cuisine. I follow PETA and ASPCA, among other animal rights groups. My followers know this. If I was contacted by and chose to work with Omaha Steaks because they offered me compensation to do so – I would lose the trust of MANY followers. It would be no surprise that I was paid to promote a Brand like Omaha Steaks because it isn’t a natural behavior for me. Your followers became followers because their life and the brands they love were cohesive with yours. Be yourself and work with Brands that allow that.
So you got the whole “Brand selection is important” thing down – what’s next? FTC says that you have to make it clear to your followers that a post is sponsored. Anyone remember that little thing we like to call a hashtag? Let’s use it! For example:
See that #sponsored hashtag? It makes all the difference in the eyes of the FTC.
Hashtagging not really part of your social persona? No worries! There are other ways to tell your fans that your post is sponsored. Take a page out of our friend Kirsten Collins’ book and just tell your fans what’s up! No need to beat around the bush. Kirsten’s 198k followers know that Core Water is a brand that fits into her online presence – so it should be no surprise that she would partner with them.
Kirsten and the FTC are the only ones that believe in transparency with Influencer Marketing. Chris Collins (yup, he’s Kirsten’s brother) recently chatted with CBS about why he believes in being honest and transparent with his 3.7 MILLION followers. Check out the story and Chris’ cameo here! (While you’re at it, check out his new single, Ain’t Ready, on iTunes!)