The Legal Nitty Gritty: What You Need to Know Before Launching an Influencer Campaign

There’s a reason why influencer marketing is growing by leaps and bounds: Put simply, it works. Social media usage is exploding across multiple demographics, with some of the biggest growth being seen in “media driven” social platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook Messenger. Whether you’re looking to improve your customer retention rates, get around the recent uptick in ad-blocker software usage, or simply increase the overall ROI of your marketing efforts, influencer marketing is definitely worth adding to your marketing arsenal.

Influencer Marketing: Know the Rules

However, before you invest in—and certainly long before you launch—your influencer marketing campaign, you need to educate yourself and your teams on the rules and regulations. The internet has matured and is no longer the wild, wild West of yore. Today, the FTC is all over online digital marketing, and rightly so. Consumers need to be protected from scams and spam, and companies need to know exactly what is—and isn’t—expected of them so they don’t put their hard-earned reputations at risk.

The biggest area where most organizations end up getting caught by the FTC not complying is disclosure. Disclosure is the beating heart, if you will, when it comes to legal guidelines around online influencer marketing. Everything else, as you will see below, is more or less connected to it, and if the heart’s not there… well, you know the rest. Let’s take a look at some of the most important influencer marketing rules and regs.

Disclosure. As I mentioned above, disclosure should be at the heart of your influencer marketing campaign. Why? Because if you are paying a person to talk in any way, shape, or form about your product or service, that content is biased. It may not read as biased, or it might look innocent on Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube, but the minute money exchanges hands, trust me, in the eyes of the law, it is. And it’s not enough for an influencer to have a generic disclosure on their website or social platforms the some of their content is sponsored. According to the FTC guidelines, that disclosure must travel with the content.

Social Platforms. On Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat—really anywhere influencer content is being shared—you also must include a disclosure. It’s common to see #CL or {Client} on posts such as these, and the general rule is to place that disclosure front and center. Don’t hide it at the end of a long URL where it might be missed. And video disclosures are even stricter. They must be made at the beginning of the video, and preferably repeated multiple times if it’s lengthy.

Sponsored content also includes monetized contests. There have been a number of companies lately that have gotten in trouble with the FTC because of gift giveaways, and that includes gift cards. If contestants have to share images of your product, they must also disclose that they are sharing “for you.” Pinterest is one social platform where brands like to try and blur the boundaries when it comes to brand related image sharing. And the FTC is watching. Don’t let it happen to you.

Employees are influencers, too! If your employees are sharing any brand- or company-related content or other material (including product reviews), you are on the hook for fines if they are not including clear disclosure statements highlighting their employment.

Here’s a great list of Q&As about the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, including information on disclosing material connections between advertisers and endorsers. No one should discount influencer marketing because of fear of fines. The key is to educate yourself on the FTC guidelines, and make sure you keep a document of corporate-wide influencer marketing guidelines and policies readily available and updated for staff and upper management alike. And be sure to follow the influencer marketer’s golden rule: Disclose, disclose, disclose!

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