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What To Know About FTC Endorsement Guidelines

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There’s an interesting psychological phenomenon called social proof. It states that people use what others say and do to guide their own actions and decisions. Social proof is the reason why social media marketing is so effective. People are likelier to purchase something when an influencer endorses it.

That means influencers have an enormous responsibility. According to U.S. federal law, they must be truthful in their endorsements and not mislead their audience. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) endorsement guidelines can help creators meet those standards and establish themselves as credible experts.

General FTC Endorsement Guidelines

The FTC guidelines for endorsements and testimonials are for advertisers on all channels. These include TV, radio, print, and social media.

These guidelines aim to protect consumers from deceptive or misleading claims and opinions. While these guidelines aren’t regulations, the FTC can investigate advertisers who don’t follow them, which can lead to law enforcement actions.

Honesty is at the core of FTC’s guidelines. Endorsers must communicate their genuine thoughts and feelings. Of course, that means they can’t rave about a product they haven’t tried. Also, endorsers shouldn’t make claims that the brand itself can’t legally make.

In addition, involved parties must reveal affiliations that aren’t obvious to everyone. Even if a partnership seems like common knowledge to the majority, they must disclose the relationship plainly for those who may not realize it. See examples of how to disclose that relationship in the Q&A below. People must understand the connection between the brand and the endorser to evaluate the testimonial accurately.

The FTC also warns against unrepresentative results. For example, if an endorser states that they lost 20 pounds after using a brand’s product for two months. The brand must prove and reinforce that the general public can experience a similar result. If the brand can’t show proof, they should be honest about typical results the vast majority of people can expect.

Here are two of the most common questions influencers have about FTC’s endorser guidelines:

How do I disclose that I got paid for an endorsement?

Tagging the brand that paid you for the endorsement isn’t sufficient disclosure. You will need to spell it out for your audience. You can say something simple like “Brand X sponsored this video” or “This is an ad for Brand X.” The disclosure should be clear and visible. This will help build goodwill with your audience and help the audience better evaluate the endorsement. Also, a single disclosure on your home page or in your social profile won’t cut it. Include disclosures in all paid content.

Do I have to disclose if I got a free product to review?

Yes, you must inform your audience if a brand gave you a product for free and asked you to review it. It doesn’t matter what the arrangement was with the brand. It doesn’t matter whether they gave you money, shipped an item directly to you, or refunded you, you need to disclose it. You should also disclose any discounts you receive. That information will impact the way people perceive your review and help them to make a more informed decision about the products you are recommending.

FTC Guidelines for Influencers

Social media influencers are marketers who have a responsibility to their audience. To help influencers follow ad requirements and endorsement laws, the FTC released guidelines specifically for influencers. Whether you’re a celebrity, blogger, or brand ambassador, here are some tips for creating content on social media while staying in line with FTC regulations:

Be Upfront With Material Connections

Influencers must be transparent about their relationship to the brands they promote. Be upfront about anything that affects the credibility of your opinions, including free products, sponsorships, and personal ties. Disclose the information in a way your audience will easily see and understand. Don’t disguise connections in a link, a long disclaimer, or bury it under a mountain of hashtags.

Adjust Disclosures According to the Content Format

Copy-pasting disclosures across different platforms isn’t the best idea. According to the FTC, influencers must adjust their disclosures according to the content format. For platforms like Instagram or TikTok, overlay your disclosure on the image or video, and mention it at the start of the caption. For YouTube videos or Facebook live streams, express the disclosure verbally, stating it at the beginning and end.

Follow the Rules for Each Platform

Some platforms have features that let influencers disclose brand partnerships, like tags, labels, and filters. However, these might not be clear enough, so the FTC requires influencers to follow their disclosure guidelines. Additionally, influencers must study and comply with each platform’s requirements and restrictions.

Be Accountable for Your Disclosures

Some influencers work with a team or agency for their brand partnerships, but it’s still their responsibility to disclose material connections. You can’t expect others to monitor your disclosures or tell you what to write and say. You also can’t assume your audience already knows or that they’ll figure it out. Learn all the best practices for linking brands and be ready to answer questions from the FTC or your audience.

Keep Up With Guideline Updates

The influencer marketing industry is changing non-stop, so the FTC regularly updates its guidelines to address new issues and trends. Influencers must keep up with the revisions and adjust their disclosures accordingly. In addition, influencers should always uphold legal and ethical standards within the industry.

FTC Guidelines for Social Media Endorsements

Today’s consumers are more likely to listen to influencers’ opinions of products and services than to content created by the brands themselves. That means influencers have considerable power.

Influencers can help brands attract new customers and boost brand awareness. They can also steer their followers’ buying decisions. Imagine how much damage they could do if they were dishonest with their reviews. Here are some FTC recommendations for influencers regarding testimonials:

  • Always disclose if you’re getting paid to review a product or have connections to the brand you’re talking about. Be transparent regardless of the platform and whether your testimonial is positive or negative.

  • Express your disclosures clearly. Ensure they are visible and understandable. Avoid using ambiguous terms like “collab” and “spon.”

  • Put an affiliate disclaimer on your blog or website. You can put the disclaimer on various spots and pages so visitors won’t miss them.

  • Verbalize your disclosures in your videos instead of leaving them in the description where your audience can easily miss them.

  • Never talk about products you’ve never received or tried before. Also, never lie about a product simply because a company paid you to review it. Don’t endorse a product if you had a negative experience.

  • Don’t make unproven claims about products that companies can’t supplement with additional proof or research.

How Influencers Should Disclose Brand Partnerships on Social Media

Different content formats call for unique disclosures. It might be tempting to stop with an #ad hashtag, but influencers must make their disclosures stand out to their audience. Here’s how you should disclose paid endorsements on various social media platforms.

Images

If you’re endorsing a product through images on Instagram or Snapchat, it’s time to do some editing. Using an editing tool, put the disclosure as a text overlay on the image. Ensure the text is noticeable and easy to read. In addition, put the disclosure at the beginning of your post description.

Videos

Make verbal and written disclosures if you’re reviewing a product through a video on YouTube or Instagram. Tell your viewers that you’re partnering with a brand, and do so within 30 seconds of the video. That way, they won’t miss it. But because some like to watch videos on mute, include a written disclosure in the caption or as on-screen text.

Live Streams

If you’re reviewing a product on a live stream, mention the brand partnership multiple times throughout the stream. That way, newcomers to your stream won’t miss the disclosure.

Write Effective Disclosures to Grow Your Credibility As an Influencer

Trust is the most essential ingredient in an influencer’s career. Without it, you risk losing your audience and the brands you work with. Practice making honest and clear-cut disclosures to succeed in the influencer marketing industry. It will help you build trust with your audience and grow a loyal follower base.

Start Monetizing Your Social Media Account With Mavely

Social media influencers have a big responsibility to honestly disclose brand promotions with their audiences. Influencers can also have a big impact by promoting products their audiences benefit from.

As long as you are sharing authentic content, being honest in your reviews, and letting your audience know that you will be paid from every sale, you can earn a living through influencer marketing while becoming a trusted expert that your followers count on as a go-to resource.

Start monetizing your loyal following by sharing reliable products and affordable deals from more than 1,200 of the world’s top brands on Mavely. If you need extra help to make sure you’re following FTC guidelines, you can turn to Mavely’s supportive network of experts, including dedicated account managers and friendly and responsive U.S.-based customer support.

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