FTC Guidelines for Influencers: How Best Practices Instill Trust


The influencer marketing industry might be relatively new, but it’s certainly redefined advertising as we know it. As the influencer space became profitable, government regulations on influencer sponsorships became standard. In 2019, the FTC created detailed laws that detail how gifting and paid campaigns should be handled by brands and influencers. These rules are subject to change as the industry evolves and are meant to protect the consumer. Being transparent about brand relationships is no longer optional- the law requires it. Transparency is also necessary to maintain a trusting and authentic relationship with your followers. Your community has the right to know whether the content they’re consuming involves a business deal.

On the FTC website, you can find examples of deceptive behavior by brands and influencers alike, as well as legal requirements influencers should adhere to when posting branded content. If you are outside the US, the FTC guidelines aren’t applicable. Make sure to check regulatory guidance that applies to your country or region to make sure you’re adhering to all legal requirements. (In the EU, for example, many influencer laws are stricter than the US- so it’s incredibly important to be aware of your local ordinances.)

Now that we’ve laid out the importance of transparent influencer advertising, let’s look at what influencers should avoid and best practices.

What to avoid

Neglecting to disclose business relationships

This is something the FTC takes seriously. Even if the specific post or pieces of content you’ve created isn’t gifted or paid, an overall brand deal must be disclosed. Failure to disclose business relationships can lead to you being fined. Brands can be penalized if an influencer fails or conceals business relationships. This means that anyone who gains from a business relationship is liable if undisclosed.

Don’t assume people know everything about your relationships

Many influencers operate multiple businesses. Some influencers may have family members who work for certain brands. This is not something that everyone who views their content would know. It is important that influencers inform others about any business relationships they have when they create content for someone. This applies to family employers, friends, and so forth.

Unclear disclosures

The FTC has stated that sponsorships and business relationships must be disclosed clearly. Do not hide or downplay a business relationship. If a sponsored video is more than 30 seconds long, it is a good idea for the influencers to mention the sponsorship throughout the video. If the sponsorship is mentioned at different points throughout the video, viewers are more likely to notice that it has been sponsored and clearly understand that they are watching content that contains advertising.

Best practices

Always be transparent

The FTC should never wonder if you are concealing important information from consumers. The FTC will fine you for any obstruction of business disclosure. Who wants to be known for being dishonest in their business practices?

Make sure your disclosures are clear

Use of confusing or ambiguous terminology is a huge risk. Make sure there is no doubt surrounding your business relationships.

Only endorse items that you have experience using

This means that you must have used the product or service by the time you want to endorse it. Only recommend products and services you are confident in recommending to maintain trust with your audience and avoid any unethical business practices.

Takeaways: Guidelines can be subject to revision

While the 2019 guidelines can be useful, it is important to note that they are advisory. The FTC plans to review the binding rules in order to clarify how influencers should approach sponsorships.

Because the influencer marketing landscape can change, it’s critical to stay up to date with any new rules and regulations. As an influencer, you are a business- and you must ensure compliance with all laws to ensure transparency with your community.

Are you an influencer looking for guidance?

Apply for an advisory membership today to get hands-on guidance from our agency. We can help you further your career while fostering ethical business practices.

Related posts

Want expert tips to build your brand?

Sign up for our mailing list. We promise we'll only send the good stuff.