The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act outlaws unfair methods of competition and unjust acts or practices that relate to commerce. The FTC is made up of a five-member board that overlooks questionable business techniques and works to prevent and remove anticompetitive business practices.
According to the FTC’s website, the Endorsement Guides “reflect the basic truth-in-advertising principle that endorsements must be honest and not misleading. An endorsement must reflect the honest opinion of the endorser and can’t be used to make a claim that the product’s marketer couldn’t legally make”. The website explains that Endorsement Guides are relative to all mass media outlets which includes newspapers, magazines, television, blogs, and social media accounts. Here are a few tips when it comes to making disclosures about product endorsements on social media.
Facts about Endorsements
- Endorsements must represent the accurate experience and honest experience of the user.
- You cannot talk about your experience with a product if you have not tried it.
- If you were paid to test out a product and had a bad experience, you cannot say that you had a great experience.
- You cannot make statements about a product that would need proof that the advertiser does not have.
Facts about Disclosures
- Disclosures should: stand out on a page, be in a readable font, be close to the claims to which they relate, be read at an understandable cadence in audio disclosures, and be on screen long enough to be read in video disclosures.
- Disclosures must be clear, conspicuous, and visible.
- Every time you mention a product on your blog it is not necessary to note whether or not you purchased it yourself, or if you were given it as a sample.
- The FTC only cares about endorsements that were made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser.
- Not all bloggers “name drop” products to receive free products or commission. Some bloggers promote and recommend products simply because they have experienced positive results. However, bloggers that do have financial arrangements with marketers should be transparent with their viewers and avoid deception.
- If you receive a product for free from a manufacturer, you should disclose this information every time you mention it in your blog. Although it is repetitive, it makes sure that new viewers are never deceived.
- If a video on Youtube requires disclosure, it should be stated clearly in the video itself. Putting the disclosure in the video’s description could be useless if the viewer does not read the description. For the most effective results, it would may be best to put the disclosure in both the video and its description.
- If you were paid to make a Youtube video review, the disclosure should be made at the beginning of the video and if possible, throughout the video. The disclosure should be clear and not hidden by advertisements that might run during the video.
- When reviewing products, it is important to reveal when you received them from the advertiser.
- If you ever describe the usability of one of your employer’s products, it is important to note your relationship with the company in the post. Even if your Facebook profile identifies your employer and job title, it is still a good idea to be clear about your connection to the product.
- Advertisers shouldn’t encourage endorsements using features that don’t allow for clear and conspicuous disclosures such as Facebook “likes” because they do not allow for disclosure. Sharing a link, picture, or video to shows that you are a supporter of a specific, product, or website as a part of a paid campaign is more effective.
- Twitter limits its messages to 140 characters so it is important to strategically communicate statements of disclosure. The FTC does not control the type of wording used, but makes sure that all social mediums understand that consumers must receive the information they need to assess sponsored statements.
- If a successful athlete is also a well-known spokesperson for a product and is being paid every time he/she posts about the product on social media outlets, he/she should disclose that he/she is being paid.
- If a celebrity charges advertisers when he/she mentions their products in his/her social media posts, it should be disclosed that the posts about products are paid endorsements.
For more information on how to stay compliant while executing influencer marketing tactics read The Savvy Brand’s Guide to Legal Risk in Content Marketing.