An Influencer's Guide to FTC Guidelines...so you don't get in trouble with the Feds.


FTC: I participate in an affiliate marketing program. If you choose to make a purchase as a result of clicking a link, I may receive a small commission of the sale. This helps me run my blog and I don’t talk about things I don’t actually use.
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We have gone from stuntin' on the Gram to making money on the Gram. Social media influencing has become the next big marketing wave and I think it is here to stay. I'm happy about the wave because it's nice to see every day people get paid for talking about things they already use, do, and buy.
Sidebar: Did ya'll see the Fyre documentary on Netlfix?

One of those most interesting things about the imaginary Fyre Festival is that for the first time, a major lawsuit (100M's) arose against the founders AND the influencers. Yes, influencers can be sued. In this case, the claim was for negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and  breach of contract. Imagine one day you're posting weight loss tea and then boom you're getting sued because you didn't caption right. #fail
 The FTC has guidelines in place to help you protect yourself. So let's briefly go over best practices, so you know what to do because the Feds are always watching.
The Rule: Any time there is a material connection between the endorser (influencer) and advertiser (or brand), that connection must be disclosed.
A  material connection can be defined as having a business or family relationship with the business, receiving a gift, or being paid.
For the purposes of this article, let's say that you are an influencer and your friend has starting a clothing brand [@randomclothingline]. Your friend asks you to wear one of his hoodies and post it on Instagram so that he can gain some traction. You agree. In exchange for this he gives you a hoodie.
We now have a material connection. So what's next?
You post a picture wearing the hoodie on Instagram. You want to add the caption "Thanks @randomclothingline for my hoodie." Or, you tag the business in your photo and put the caption "Thanks for my hoodie." No bueno. 
The FTC is clear about the required usage of disclaimer language when posting partnership, sponsorships and endorsements. Hashtags such as #ad #advertisement #sponsored #sponsoredpost Clearly and conspicuously.
While this does not mean that they have to be at the beginning of your caption it does mean that they have to be easily seen (typically within the first three lines of the caption). If the reader has to click "more" to see the hashtag, you're not doing it right.
If you don't want to use a hashtag you have to be clear that the post is sponsored in your language. The FTC has been clear that built-in Instagram tools that denote the post "paid" or "sponsored" are not enough.
"Thank you @randomclothing for gifting me this hoodie." It is not enough just to say "Thanks @randomclothing."
 So let's say you only like to post dope pics and use the caption "Caption this," but you still want to look out for your friend so you tag @randomclothingline in the photo. There is still a "material connection" and according to the FTC that post is an endorsement. You have to disclose this partnership in the caption.
The same goes for Instagram stories, hashtags must be used and be conspicuous (not hidden) and on the same story as the sponsored post, not the next one, not the next day.
You've probably got the picture now. I made this handy Do's and Don't's for a quick reminder.
Always secure the bag,




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