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The FTC, FDA, Influencers and Social Media: What Marketers Need to Know in 2020

Shelby Bake

Social Media Specialist

Back in 2008, when Derek’s* hair was long and Facebook was in its fledgling stage, it was unlikely for anyone to foresee an intersection between social media and (gasp!) the law.

Cut to June 2019, when two huge government agencies, the FDA and FTC, teamed up and sent warning letters to sellers of vaping liquid. Later, in November, the agencies released a guidance document entitled, “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers.”

But, what did these documents say? Why do they matter to you?

What is a Social Media Influencer?

We talk more about influencers here, but basically, it is an individual or group with established authority and influence over an audience and their purchasing decisions and lifestyle choices. Typically, influencers are paid to work with companies or agencies (working on behalf of companies) either in currency or product in exchange for mentioning the company’s products or services in a positive light.

Key Takeaway: Influencers Need to Disclose the Negatives

In the case of vaping, paid social media influencers failed to disclose the fact that the products they were advertising are addictive.

If you’re paying an influencer, they need to clearly disclose any risks related to your product. As the FTC says, “if they aren’t making those disclosures clearly, or if they’re conveying misleading or unsubstantiated claims about your products, don’t sit on the sidelines. Insist on corrective steps or cut them loose.”

Key Takeaway: Influencers Need to Show They’re Paid

You know that thing where an influencer’s social media post includes the hashtag, “#ad”? We call that a paid disclosure, and it’s mandatory. As the National Law Review says:

“The guidance recommends making it obvious that a financial relationship exists between the influencer and the brand he or she is promoting, through clear and conspicuous placement of the disclosure in simple language.”

Make sure that your disclosure (#ad) sits above the break or “more” button on Instagram, and that other platforms make the partnership visible in the first few lines of text.

influencer example with quaker oats

You Need to Monitor All Chatter About Your Brand Online

Experts have suggested that these guidelines extend to all conversations happening about your brand online—not just the paid ones started by influencers. That being said, your business is liable for anything said online and responsible for correcting any speech you’re aware of that is false or misleading.

How to Keep Your Ear to the Ground

With social media platforms and influencer sites and blogs popping up faster than you can say “JUUL,” it can be hard to keep tabs on everything that’s being said about your company.

That’s when you call on the social media sleuths at Element! We leverage over a decade of professional social media experience (#earlyadopters) and cutting edge tools to ensure your brand is accurately presented online.

Contact us today to start listening.

*Derek is our Director of Digital Marketing! Check him out on LinkedIn here. #ad