Social media personalities who have Tweeted, Instagrammed, and Snapped their way to stardom have no doubt caught the attention of businesses large and small. Much like how professional athletes and other celebrities are paid to endorse products, businesses and retailers have increasingly turned to recognized social media personalities to recommend their products. Although social media influencers can get paid significant sums of money for product placement and rave reviews, sometimes the relationship with the company is not readily apparent to the public. Where the endorsement is not based on genuine user experience, this can have a misleading and negative impact on consumers.
Disclosing the connection is important to the truth about the advertisement or endorsement. The basic premise behind the truth-in-advertising principle is that all advertising, including endorsements, whether direct or indirect, should be honest and not mislead the public.
There are some influencers who may post about a certain product and simply review and recommend the product with no connection to the marketers of those products. However, influencers who are compensated, or receive the product or other benefits from the marketer for the sole purpose of providing a recommendation may be deceiving their audience where the connection is not disclosed.
Legal reviewers of advertising and promotional materials should be aware of a company’s use of influencers and ensure proper disclosures are used. While there is no special wording required for the disclosure, an effective statement should be clear and should give the audience the essential information and the nature of the relationship. For example, if the influencer received the product for free, the disclosure could simply read, “Company X sent me this product to try…” If the influencer was paid for the endorsement, say so. If the endorsement is a video post, ensure the disclosure is clear and prominent in the video itself, and not merely in the text of the description.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published “The FTC’s Endorsement Guides – What People Are Asking” in May 2015 to provide guidance on how to disclose connections between brands and their endorsers to consumers and provides over 35 examples of various endorsement scenarios. This is a very useful tool for common-folk like you and I to refer to when unsure about an influencer and/or company!
I hope this tidbit of information was useful to those of you who are curious about how influencers and companies work together to advertise products and make a living doing so!
See you soon,
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