Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made updates to its FAQ page for endorsement regulations for the first time in five years. We recap the three most important things you need to know about the update and what it means for social media marketing and your brand.
Clearly define endorser and client relationships
You’ve probably noticed you’re seeing more #ad on celebrity posts to let you know it’s an ad for a product they’re paid to endorse. However, endorsements aren’t just for celebrities anymore. Marketers and PR pros need to disclose if they’re promoting a client’s brand or product on their agency social media outlets and their own personal social media outlets. According to the new guidelines, it has to be clear enough so the public understands your relationship to the brand.
For example, when you’re posting coverage about a client, it’s important to disclose that it is your client. When you’re talking about how much the office loves their fully stocked fridge with Greek yogurt, you have to disclose that it’s a client’s product.
Disclose all contests and sweepstakes
The contest sponsor is responsible for disclosure on social media. If contest entries are provided to people who share their own content or engage with a brand, that is considered compensation. This could include asking for likes or comments on your post or for others to post their own content (e.g. photo) with a hashtag.
Disclosure can include a hashtag like #contest, or #sweepstakes. It’s always safe to disclose a contest or promotion, even if it is something as small as $1 coupon, a small prize, or small-value product for a tweet or like.
Disclose in videos and images
For videos, a disclosure must be made at the beginning, in addition to being on the details page. For videos that are longer, it should be clear throughout as well. All disclosures must be on the screen long enough to be noticed, read and understood.
According to the FTC's guidelines, "You don't necessarily have to use words to convey a positive message,” so sharing images on social media – even if you don't use any text – can also be considered an endorsement. Whether you’re an athlete with a sports drink or a PR pro enjoying a meal at a client’s restaurant, something as simple as a selfie could require a disclosure.
When in doubt, disclose any type of relationship when money has exchanged hands, such as an employer or a client. This applies to contests, paid product endorsements or reviews, and client content you share on both your personal and agency’s social media accounts.