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What is a Social Media Influencer?

A social media influencer can be anyone who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with. Generally they’ll have more than 10,000 followers. Influencers have the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his or her authority, position or relationship with his or her audience.

Nowadays, it’s very common for brands to connect with influencers to help them in their digital marketing efforts. Usually, there’s an exchange or compensation in the form of anything of value such as money, free products or discounts.

93% of influencers violate FTC or FDA rules

Influencers have a legal obligation to disclose to their followers that they are working with a brand to recommend or endorse a product across a social media platform.

In other words, the social media influencer needs to disclose the relationship between them and the brand in each post that qualifies as an endorsement in social media. This information is relevant so that consumers can weigh the value of the endorsement.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) treats influencer marketing as a form of paid endorsement. The FTC enforces consumer protection laws, works to stop deceptive advertising and seeks to protect consumers from being misled.

Think about it, would you as a consumer trust a genuine endorsement or an endorsement from someone who’s gaining something in exchange from that social media post?

If you’re a social media influencer, telling your followers about these kinds of relationships will help keep your recommendations honest. This is good because your followers will trust you more and you will avoid having to pay fines or penalties.

The FTC Endorsement Guides provides examples about how advertisers and endorsers can stay on the right side of the law.

Social Media Influencer Disclosures

Disclosures for social media influencers
Federal Trade Commission

When to Disclose

  • Disclose when you have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand.
  • Keep in mind that tags, likes, pins, and similar ways of showing you like a brand or product are endorsements.

How To Disclose

  • Disclosures should be hard to miss so place it with the endorsement message.
  • Don’t hide disclosures on a profile page, at the end of posts, or anywhere that requires a person to click “more”.
  • Don’t mix your disclosure into a group of #hashtags or links.
  • If your endorsement is in a picture on a platform like Snapchat and Instagram Stories, superimpose the disclosure over the picture.
  • When making an endorsement in a video, the disclosure should be in the video and not just in the description uploaded with the video.
  • If making an endorsement in a live stream, the disclosure should be repeated periodically.
  • Use simple and clear language.
  • Adding terms to your post like “advertisement,” “ad,” and “sponsored” is okay but not always necessary.
social media influencer
Notice the disclosure “Paid partnership with Burberry”

Also Important

The FTC gives some guidelines but use your common sense. Know that in Digital Advertising, “clear and conspicuous” is the standard when making Claims and Disclosures. It’s the brand owner’s responsibility to protect their trademark. And it’s your responsibility, as a social media influencer, to make these disclosures. Don’t rely on your business partners to do this for you.

  • You can’t talk about your experience with a product you haven’t tried.
  • You can’t make up claims about a product that would require proof that you don’t have – such as scientific proof that a product can treat a health condition.

Of course, sometimes the social media influencer won’t have a legal duty to disclose. For example:

  • If the social media influencer isn’t receiving anything in exchange for the social media post, and
  • There isn’t a family, personal or employment type relationship between the brand and the influencer.

Share this post with your favorite social media influencer and help them stay legal!