By: Kelsea, Social Media Director

Social media has grown from a simple place to connect friends and family to a marketplace for brands of all sizes. Various social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have allowed brands to reach consumers through engaging content, low-cost advertising and influencer partnerships. These partnerships are used to promote brands and their products across all markets and industries. As social media has become an integral part of companies’ business and advertising plans, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has had to adjust its regulations to encompass the digital space. The FTC’s mission is to protect consumers from unfair or misleading acts in commerce. Basically, they make sure consumers know when they are being advertised to.  

These regulations come with requirements from brands. To ensure your company is abiding by the FTC regulations, social media professionals should familiarize themselves with the guidelines pertaining to social media use. Below are three debated and commonly overlooked disclosure requirements by the FTC: 

ftc social media

#Sponsored

With over 300K sponsored posts published to Instagram in the month of July alone, the FTC is making it easier for consumers to understand when influencers are being paid to post about their “favorite” brands. Recently, the FTC reached out to over 90 influencers to address how they disclose their posts on social media. The FTC said that influencers must use clear hashtags, such as #ad or #sponsored and cannot hide them within groups of hashtags. The guidelines also stated that all disclosures on Instagram should be made within the first three lines of copy so users do not have to click the “more” button to view disclosures. Along with this, the FTC created a FAQ titled FTC’s Endorsements Guides: What People Are Asking to help guide influencers and brands through the disclosure process.

While many brand managers find disclosures intrusive, influencer endorsements continue to drive sales. Many influencers only agree to promote products they truly use and love, therefore gaining trust from their followers even when #ad leads a post.  

#Sweeps

Sponsored posts are not the only types of social media content that require proper disclosure. When hosting giveaways on social media, brands must be aware of the platform rules provided by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, legal guidelines and disclosures required by the FTC. If any contest asks social media users to share or upload a post and/or picture as a form of entry, the user is required to include #sweepstakes or #contest within their social media post. This shows the users’ followers that they are not organically promoting the brand involved, but using the content shared to participate in a contest.

While this may seem to take away from the authenticity of the brand, social media contests are great ways to reach new audiences and still allow social media users to add their own creative approach to the content they share as a form of entry. 

#Client

Influencers are not the only social media users required to post disclosure statements when promoting their “favorite” products. If you work for a brand or agency, you too must disclose when sharing any posts relating to your employer’s products or clients. The best way to ensure you’re adhering to this requirement is to include #client on any posts relating to brands you work with and sharing truthful reviews when posting.

Employers can ensure employees are properly using social media by including posting guidelines within their employee handbooks and periodically reminding employees of the policy.

As social media continues to dominate the branding and advertising space, the FTC is beginning to more closely monitor content on various platforms. This means ongoing regulation updates and strict enforcement. To ensure your clients and brands are not penalized for their actions on social media, make sure you’re up-to-date on FTC guidelines and don’t push the limits when it comes to disclosures. Stay in the clear by always disclosing in a clear and conspicuous manner.

Sources:
·     https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking#social
·     https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking#contests
·     https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2017/04/influencers-are-your-materialconnection-disclosures
·     http://www.refinery29.com/2017/04/150761/government-regulations-instagram-social-media