How Influencers Think About FTC Disclosures

Posted by Alex Ditty on Oct 31, 2017 10:30:00 AM

In Influencer Marketing, FTC Guidelines

How do creators feel about Instagram’s new tool?

This past June, Instagram announced that it would be rolling out “Paid Partnership” tags for influencers to include on their branded posts. The intention of this new tool is to assist brands and influencers with their disclosures as well as provide them with some additional tracking capabilities on their influencer programs.

Instagram_swopes_paid_partnership_ftc_influencer.pngThe tool is still limited to certain Instagrammers. We reached out to Elise Swopes who runs the @swopes account with over 270K followers, to hear her thoughts on the new tool and how brands are handling disclosures.

The overwhelming opinion that we hear from influencers and brands alike is that there is still confusion over what does and doesn’t require disclosure. Many people are still confused about what qualifies as a proper disclosure in the eyes of the FTC. Swopes mentioned this confusion from both a personal and client perspective. Sometimes a brand will contract her for a photoshoot with no social sharing requirement. Referencing a recent project, Elise says “[the client] never asked me to post anything on Instagram but I wanted to post something so people would attend their event, and I still put the ‘paid in partnership with…’ Instagram tag on top because I felt like it was the right thing to do.” But if she wasn’t paid specifically to share that content, was she actually required by the FTC to include that tag? There’s still uncertainty about this even from the brands she works. The FTC has not provided clear rules for this type of scenario, but the smartest way to proceed is to err on the side of caution. Whenever a brand is compensating an influencer, the default should be to disclose.

Unfortunately, many influencers still aren’t using the proper disclosures on their posts. The inconsistent disclosure enforcement is something that bothers Swopes: “I see people like Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner who have millions of followers but they’re not putting #ad in their posts and I don’t get why they’re not getting in trouble.” Her view is that most influencers include the disclosures as a matter of honesty and to be fair with their followers. Swopes is all for FTC enforcement on the brands and individuals who aren’t playing by those rules because it puts everyone on the same playing field. “It definitely puts a bad taste in your mouth when someone has millions of followers and they’re not [including the disclosures] and tricking everybody...”

Many influencers, like Swopes, tell us that brands will typically have very specific disclosure language for them to include in their sponsored posts. The tricky piece is including the brand-directed disclosures in a way that still matches the influencer’s natural tone. Influencers like Swopes want to post the copy in their own language but the brand’s lack of clarity on the rules and fear of FTC retribution often restricts that creative freedom. Swopes is hopeful that the new Paid Partnership tags from Instagram will give her the ability to quickly and easily include the necessary disclosure in a straightforward way without changing the authenticity of her caption copy.

Instagram designed this new tagging tool to remove the worry from both brands and influencers wondering whether their disclosure language is sufficient. But, to throw a wrench in everyone’s optimism… the FTC recently indicated that this tool won’t be counted as a proper disclosure. So the best course of action is to continue delineating paid sponsorships through clear caption copy disclosures.

Brands and influencers continue to see the success and value of influencer marketing and the FTC continues its enforcement to make sure both parties are doing it right. But only time will tell on what right is. To get a full roundup of the FTC guidelines on influencer marketing, download our free ebook.

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