If you’re a content creator, sponsored content is one way you can earn some money. Although many bloggers and influencers think they need a huge following to garner brand sponsorship, it’s possible as long as you have a loyal, engaged following, even with just a few thousand followers. However, when you are working with brands, it’s important to ensure that you’re following all the guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC exists to help protect consumers. This doesn’t mean that they care about sponsored content because it is deceiving. Rather, the FTC wants to ensure that your followers understand the difference between a product that you found naturally and one that you’re being paid to promote.
In April 2017, the FTC sent letters to over 90 influencers telling them to be more clear with their sponsored post disclosures and updated its sponsored post guidelines for everyone at the same time. In September of the same year, the FTC send more than 20 new letters to specific influencers giving them a warning that they were misleading their followers.
Although some influencers think that they only need to disclose sponsorships if money exchanges hands, this isn’t the case. The FTC does not see a distinction between partnerships sponsored with money and partnerships sponsored with products. The rule of thumb is, if a brand is providing cash or products in exchange for a blog post, Instagram image or story, you need to disclose it.
The FTC doesn’t seem to have a preference over #ad or #sponsored. Some influencers prefer to use #sponsored for product based partnerships and #ad for paid sponsorships.
The FTC says that as long as you use one of them, that is enough. However, you should definitely put these hashtags either at the beginning or the end of your hashtag list so they’re not buried within a long list of hashtags. It’s also not good enough to attach ‘ad’ to the brand’s name.
Newer disclosure hashtags are #brandpartner and #brandambassador. These are also fine to use, according to the FTC, but using #partner or #ambassador alone is considered too ambiguous.
The FTC Twitter account (@FTC) puts out guidelines and answers commonly asked questions on a regular basis. Follow them, but also follow the hashtags #influencers101 and #influencertips for more help with staying FTC compliant with your sponsored content.
While it’s unlikely that the FTC will concern itself with smaller bloggers and influencers (they’re mainly looking at Kardashian level followings), it’s still vital that you follow all their rules and guidelines. Staying current as rules change will help ensure that you don’t have to worry about misleading your followers with sponsored content.