The FTC has told Instagram influencers to “show me (and your followers) the money” in a series of enforcement actions announced on April 19th regarding violations of its endorsement rules.
After what it described as a review of “numerous Instagram posts by celebrities, athletes, and other influencers”, the FTC says it has sent over 90 letters to influencers on Instagram. The letters contained a warning that the FTC found the influencers’ posts in violation of the FTC rules regarding endorsements, and offered assistance in learning about how to correct their postings.
The enforcement action was spurred in part by consumer advocacy done to the FTC by groups including non-profit watchdog Public Citizen. The groups have been pressuring the FTC for months about a lack of transparency in influencer marketing on Instagram.
In addition to being a warning that the agency is paying attention to enforcement of the endorsement guidelines, the announcement also offered a glimpse into the agency’s interpretation of the guidelines as they apply to influencers. Some of the warnings sent to the Instagram influencers applied to posts where the relationship was disclosed, but late in a long text so it occurred after the “more” split in the text. The FTC warned the influencers that to be in compliance with the endorsement guidelines, disclosures must occur above the “more” split to ensure they are seen. In addition, the FTC warned against inserting disclosures into a long string of hashtags where they may be overlooked.
To comply with FTC product endorsement guidelines, all social media and blog references to a product must also disclose an author’s material connection to the product if there is one. The disclosure must be conspicuous, unavoidable, and occur before the mention of the product to be in compliance. Links to disclosures on another page are insufficient. For more information, the FTC offers an FAQ with more information on the endorsement guidelines.