Here’s an overview of what is discussed in this article:
- What is the FTC and what do they regulate?
- What kinds of disclosures do I have to make and when do I have to to make them?
- How and where do I make a disclosure?
- How can I learn more?
If you recommend things on social media or endorse a product, LISTEN UP
This past December I did a special podcast episode on Influencers and the responsibilities they have. This was a super popular (and really interesting) topic so this blog post serves as an additional dive into your responsibility online when it comes specifically to DISCLOSURES.
What is the FTC and what do they regulate?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a federal agency responsible for protecting consumers by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices through law enforcement, advocacy, and education.
The FTC has some great online educational resources for those interested in diving into specific topics, like this great little “Influencer Guide“.
Ok, so what do I have to disclose?
If you recommend or endorse products on social media, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, you have to make sure that you disclose the RELATIONSHIP or material connection you have with the brand.
The FTC defines “Material Connections” as, “ a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship – such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services.” A key thing to note here is that a financial relationship is not limited to money, you have a financial relationship with a brand if you got anything of value to mention a product; including free or discounted products, perks, ect.
The only time you do NOT need to make a disclosure is if you have NO relationship at all with the brand product.
This disclosure of your connection or relationship needs to be obvious to your followers and can really be done quite simply through hashtags or a little section at the end of your post.
How do I go about making a disclosure?
When making a disclosure about your relationship to a brand or product the key thing to keep in mind is that your audience must be able to SEE and UNDERSTAND the disclosure. Place the disclosure someplace on your post where it’s hard to miss, and make sure that you use clear and simple language.
Here are some examples from the FTC:
- “Don’t use vague or confusing terms like “sp,” “spon,” or “collab,” or stand-alone terms like “thanks” or “ambassador,” and stay away from other abbreviations and shorthand when possible.
- Simple explanations like “Thanks to Acme brand for the free product” are often enough if placed in a way that is hard to miss. So are terms like “advertisement,” “ad,” and “sponsored.”
- “If making an endorsement in a video, the disclosure should be in the video and not just in the description uploaded with the video. Viewers are more likely to notice disclosures made in both audio and video. Some viewers may watch without sound and others may not notice superimposed words.”
- “If making an endorsement in a live stream, the disclosure should be repeated periodically so viewers who only see part of the stream will get the disclosure.”
Some additional things to keep in mind:
- You can’t talk about a product you haven’t tried!
- Don’t lie or exaggerate about a product, including making up things to help sell a product. Be honest and transparent in your posts.
Where can I go for more information?
Head on over to the FTC website for more information about social media disclosures. They have some informational videos, copies of the rules and regulations, as well as other resources available for the public. Remember this is something SO easy to do! Just make sure you are open, transparent, and honest with your audience about the relationships you have with brands and products. Protect yourself and your business and make sure to disclose!