Social Media FTC Endorsement Guidelines

October 17, 2017

A guide to following FTC law in Social Media

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What’s This?

There is so much confusion about disclosures on endorsements, especially on social media. Bloggers and social media personalities may think that a simple #ad hashtag is enough, but they’re in for a rude awakening. The FTC has begun to crack down on this type of sponsored post and the last thing you want is legal trouble for a silly mistake. We’ve put together a guide for you to follow on FTC Endorsement Guidelines. This is accurate as of 10-17-17, so we recommend visiting the FTC website in case there are any changes after this date.

Social Media FTC Endorsement Guidelines

When Should I Disclose?



According to the FTC you must disclose a relationship whenever there is financial compensation (you are paid), a free product (a company sends you a product for review or posting), or a gift is given in exchange for a post (example – a gift card). You must disclose this relationship each time you post on social about that product. That means that if you receive a product in March, post about it then, and then post about it again in August – you must disclose both times.

Social Media FTC Endorsement Guidelines per Social Network

Since each social network functions differently, the FTC has guidelines on how you need to disclose. What works for one does not work on another. Let’s break this down by each network.

A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M|N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z

Blogs




Since most social media personalities have blogs, we figured we’d start with that.




  1. If there is an endorsement in a blog, the disclosure needs to be crystal clear and easily readable.
  2. The disclosure needs to be at the start of the blog and should be above the fold.
  3. The disclosure must be on each blog, not on a disclosure page or home page.

Facebook

Facebook makes things much easier since you have plenty of space to disclose:

  1. Sponsorship must be disclosed at the beginning of the post description by using #sponsored, #ad, or #paid (if disclosing sponsorship with hashtags) AND by tagging the brand when possible.
  2. For sponsored video content, the disclosure must be done as clear and written overlay on the video.
  3. To be completely safe, disclose verbally during the video.
  4. #sp, #spon, #collab, #ambassador, “Thanks to…” or “Video made possible by…” are not adequate disclosure hashtags.
  5. Any ambiguous disclosures must come with additional proper disclosure.

Instagram

Instagram is quite tricky and many Instagrammers have gotten used to lazy practices and ambiguous hashtags. Here’s the appropriate disclosure for Instagram posts:

  1. Hashtag the post as #sponsored, #ad, and #paid to indicate sponsorship
  2. #sp, #spon, #collab, or #ambassador are not acceptable disclosures
  3. If you use an ambiguous disclosure, include additional proper disclosure.
  4. The disclosure must be before the “more” button and at the start of the content description.
  5. Disclosure of sponsorship in the comments or among other hashtags is not acceptable.
  6. The Instagram built-in paid partnership tag is not sufficient according to the FTC.
  7. If endorsing on Instagram Stories, the disclosure must be superimposed on the image.

Live Streaming (all applicable networks)

  1. The disclosure must come verbally at the start of the video.
  2. You must also disclose in the video description in clear, unambiguous language.
  3. In the case that a sponsored live stream is long, you must disclose multiple times throughout the live stream.
  4. If you will use hashtags to disclose, use #ad, #sponsored, or #paid.
  5. Ambiguous tags including #sp, #spon, #collaboration, “Thanks to…” or “Video made possible by…” are not acceptable ways to disclose.

Snapchat

Don’t fudge things because of Snapchat’s ephemeral nature. Here are the requirements for FTC disclosure on Snapchat:

  1. Sponsored Snaps and Stories must have #ad, #sponsored, or #paid written or superimposed directly on all sponsored content.
  2. If an entire Snapchat Story is sponsored, the disclosure must show up on the first Snap of the Story.
  3. Disclose verbally if the sponsored Snapchat content is in video form.
  4. #sp, #spon, #collab, #ambassador or other ambiguous hashtags are not acceptable disclosure on videos.
  5. Sponsored Snaps and Stories must have #ad, #sponsored, or #paid written directly on sponsored content.
  6. On entire sponsored Snapchat Stories, the disclosure must show up on the first or second Snap of the Story.

Twitter

Twitter’s 140 character limit makes disclosure a tad more challenging. Here’s are the details you need to know:

  1. Sponsored tweets have to include #ad or #paid at the start of the tweet.
  2. Tag the sponsoring brand when applicable.
  3. Ambiguous or unclear hashtags such as #spon, #sp, or #collaboration are not sufficient for disclosure.

YouTube

The rules are pretty simple for this video site:

  1. Use clear and unambiguous phrases, for example, “This video is sponsored by…”.
  2. Include sponsorship information above the “show more” button.
  3. The disclosure must also be added as a clear and written overlay on the video.
  4. It is recommended that you also disclose verbally.
  5. Verbal and written disclosures must appear near the beginning of the video.
  6. Written disclosures must remain on the screen long enough to be easily read and understood.
  7. The use of phrases such as “thanks to…” are not considered proper disclosure.
  8. Putting written disclosures at the bottom of the video description, or failing to include written and verbal disclosure within the video itself are punishable by law.
  9. YouTube’s paid promotion tool is not appropriate disclosure according to the FTC.
  10. If you use the paid promotion tool, make sure to include proper disclosure.

While knowing platform-specific FTC endorsement guidelines can be helpful, the FTC is more concerned about the types of disclosure and less with how each disclosure appears on any given social media platform. Here are the FTC’s recommendations for:

Have more questions about proper disclosure? Ask us in the comments or join our Facebook group.

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