On every sponsored post you look at, you’ll always notice that you see #ad and #sponsored left and right. As an influencer, you might think it’s something that’s not so important that could just be left out when doing a sponsored post because it could affect the likes you get from your audience. No harm, no foul, right?
While “forgetting” to put #ad, #sponsored, or #paidpartner could appear as a “honest mistake” when posting sponsored content so it could appear more organic, you could find yourself getting a letter from the FTC quicker than you know it. Lately, the FTC has been cracking down on sponsored Instagram posts making sure that influencers and brands are disclosing to their followers which of their posts on social are sponsored posts, and sending out this letter.
Want to avoid getting this letter from the FTC before you have to put a post down, or get a fine? Follow a few of these simple guidelines.
1. Make sure that you explicitly disclose to your followers whether your posts are sponsored or not.
As influencers, we go through many avenues to hide the fact that our posts are sponsored just so our engagement doesn’t go down. After all, social media is a number’s game, and if there’s a way we can ensure that our engagement doesn’t go down, we’ll try it.
However, the FTC wants to make sure the minute that they land on your post, they know it’s a sponsored post. That means no using vague language when it comes to talking about your partnership with the brand to try to substitute the use of #ad or #sponsored within the post. While your post’s copy might seem clear to you that it’s a sponsored post, it might not be so clear to your followers, so make sure that if your copy is vague even in the slightest, it is followed immediately by #ad, #sponsored, or #paidpartner.
Also, this goes to hiding the sponsored tags in the comments or flooding it in the bottom of the post so your followers would have to click “see more” to see the rest of your post and realize that it is a sponsored post. They want to make sure that consumers don’t have to look to see if the post is sponsored or not. It should be a given right off the bat.
Rule of thumb: avoid vague language, explicitly point out that your post is sponsored above the three first lines of your post, make sure that it’s not hard to miss and misinterpret, and you’re good.
Endorsements do not have to be paid for it to be a sponsored post. The FTC also defines sponsored posts as posts based on if you have a business or family relationship to the advertiser that you’re posting about as an influencer.
If your friend works at x brand and you’re doing them a favor by giving them a quick shoutout on your socials, that still constitutes as an endorsement that needs to be pointed out to your followers. According to the FTC, material connections considered sponsored are defined as the below:
“The FTC’s Endorsement Guides state that if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and the marketer of a product – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless the connection is already clear from the context of the communication containing the endorsement. Material connections could consist of a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the provision of free products to the endorser.”
Being transparent is very critical to FTC rules, so if your friend works at your favorite clothing brand and is hooking you up with the season’s latest collection and you want to share your haul, make sure that you mention that it’s a sponsored post.
Using hashtags like #sp, #spon, #collab, #ambasador, #partner, or any of the like that don’t explicitly state that the post is sponsored breaks the FTC’s rules for posting sponsored content on social media. Going back to #1, if your audience has to wonder whether or not the post is sponsored or not, then that should be a signal that you’re most likely doing it wrong, and you need to make sure your language is not ambiguous and confusing.
When using StyleLink.it affiliate links, you have to also explicitly disclose to your followers and audience that you are earning commissions from a specific brand. The general public may not know what affiliate links are, so they need to know that right off the bat that you are earning commissions on every sale that is made when they are redirected from your specific links as it still constitutes as sponsored content. Always make sure that you disclose that on any of the channels that you are utilizing affiliate links.
For many big influencers, Instagram has started rolling out a new feature (“Paid Partnership with”) where they can input who they are partnering with, and it will show just like a location tag on their Instagram posts. While Instagram has yet to roll this feature out to all business influencer accounts within Instagram, users like Aimee Song have already begun to use the feature with brands like Michael Kors during Fashion Week. As it rolls out to everyone else, be sure to use this as it will explicitly show to your followers that certain posts are specifically sponsored.
While these are just a few ways to share how you can explicitly state which of your posts are sponsored or not, we suggest reading over all of the FTC’s Endorsement Guide, so you know exactly what and what not to do when sharing sponsored content. With a good strategy set in place, you can avoid being flagged by the FTC.