When Do Social Media Users Have To Disclose Endorsements?
Updated: May 30, 2018
Truth in advertising is important no matter if it is written in a magazine, spoken on the television, or appears on your social media timeline. Just this year, 2018, the FTC updated their endorsement guidelines as they pertain to sponsorships on social media and social media influencers. Since studies reveal that people react differently to information they receive from family, friends, or social media stars than they do to people who are paid to endorse a product, the FTC intends to create greater transparency by requiring brands and social media stars to disclose their relationships when it comes to recommending products or services.
Social media doesn't just include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but rather it additionally includes YouTube, Snapchat, and blogs to name a few. Each platform has its own requirements that brands and influencers must properly disclose. For example, there are different hashtags that must be used on different platforms. Some platforms require the use of a hashtag while others do not. There are different rules when the endorsement is written online than when it is spoken. The location of the endorsement varies by platform, i.e. does it have to be the first thing you read in the influencers description or does it just have to be disclosed in a non-ambiguous way and easy to read font.
Just because a social media influencer raves about their favorite new product in a post does not necessarily mean they have a sponsorship agreement with that brand. If the influencer bought the product on their own and they are not being rewarded in any way for giving a shout-out to the brand or product, they do not have to disclose an endorsement. If, however, they are compensated for their social media mention or doing it for a campaign, then they would need to disclose the endorsement. Note, compensation does not just mean they were paid outright for their social media mention. Compensation can include receiving a discount on future products, being entered to win a prize, or receiving free goods or services.
Whether you are an Instagram model, frequent blogger or social media influencer, if you have received something of value or are paid to mention a product online, the FTC guidelines require you to disclose this endorsement.
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