The digital space is constantly changing, and with its constant changes, it is up to influencers to stay in the know to ensure that they're covering all their bases when it comes to paid partnerships. As a content creator, it's easy to think it's something that's not so important that could just be left out when doing a sponsored post because putting #ad or #sponsored could affect the likes you get from your audience. No harm, no foul, right? However, the FTC is cracking down on every sponsored post to ensure a clear disclosure that it's a paid partnership, and if you're not ensuring that your sponsored post is clear and conspicuous, you could be hit with a warning that could later result in a fine. 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 this letter from the FTC quicker than you know it. Here's a few tips and guidelines that could save you the trouble when creating sponsored posts.
"The FTC is cracking down on every sponsored post to ensure a clear disclosure that it's a paid partnership."
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.
When using affiliate links, such as those that Planoly provides through its StyleLink.it affiliate network, 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. However, if you're creating a blog post that includes affiliate links and you've already disclosed on the blog that you are getting commission for sales made from those affiliate links, but drive regular content from social media that doesn't include those links from a shoppable feed within Instagram, then you do not have to disclose that on the social media post. Aside from that instance, always make sure that you disclose that on any of the channels that you are utilizing affiliate links.
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.
4. It doesn't matter what social media channel you're posting a sponsored post - the same rules apply to every channel.
Just because the FTC is being more critical on Instagram on the rules that follow sponsored post, it doesn't mean that you should be more lenient on other social media channels. The same rules still apply to every channel, so make sure that your partnerships are always clear and conspicuous on every channel. The FTC did a #Influencer 101 Twitter chat back in November where they answered many questions on the do's and don'ts of sponsored posts within the digital space, and covered how to disclose partnerships on different social media channels. To make it simple - if the brand or advertiser you're working with gave you product, services or money or you have the ability to earn money (affiliate links), you have to disclose the relationship that you have with the brand or advertiser. While it may be a drag to have all these rules and regulations to abide by when creating sponsored content, it will save you from so much hassle and trouble later down the road, and a letter from the FTC.
Tweet this. 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. Update 11/14: The FTC recently released a disclosure statement for working with social media influencers. You can review the full document here.