One benefit of being a social media influencer is simply getting a message out to the public. But being a social media influencer can be financially lucrative when the influencer’s page or uploads have many viewers and likes.
Social media influencers can also make money by endorsing products. However, social media influencers must comply with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations regarding disclosure of products they are endorsing in their uploads and posts.
When must a social media influencer include a disclosure in their post?
When a social media influencer endorses a product, they must explicitly state that they have a relationship, referred to as a “material connection,” with the product’s brand.
A connection is material if the social media influencer has a personal, family, employment or financial relationship with the brand. For example, many social media influencers are paid, given free product or receive other perks to endorse that product.
Social media influencers do not have to disclose relationships to products that they simply purchased and happen to enjoy in the absence of a relationship with that product’s brand.
How can social media influencers disclose product relationships?
Any disclosure in a social media post must be seen and understood by those viewing the post. The disclosure should be included in the endorsement message itself. It is not enough for endorsements to be included only in:
An “about me” page, at the end of the post
- In an area of the platform where a person must click “More” to see more information
- In a group of links or hashtags
When it comes to endorsements made in pictures on social media platforms, the disclosure must be superimposed on the picture for a sufficient period for users to read it.
When it comes to video endorsements, the disclosure must be included in the video itself both in audio and video, as users might have their device on mute or might not be watching the screen at the time of the disclosure.
When it comes to live streams, the social media influence should mention the disclosure periodically, as users might not watch the entire livestream.
Disclosures should use the same wording as the endorsement. Disclosure statements must be simple and clear.
For example, social media influencers can use words like “advertisements” and “sponsored” or “partnered” in their disclosure. Social media influencers can, but are not required, to use a hashtag with the disclosure on their post.
Vague words like “spon,” “collab,” or mere “thanks” will not suffice, as viewers might not understand what these words mean or identify them as a relationship with the product’s brand.
Social media influencers cannot endorse a product they have not used themselves. Social media influencers also must be truthful about the products they endorse. They cannot lie about their experience with or opinion of the product. They cannot claim the product can do something it cannot do.
Social media users are free to endorse products they have a material relationship with. Doing so can provide an additional stream of income. However, they must make disclosures when they are endorsing a product so that viewers of their content know they have a relationship with the product’s brand.