Why Influencers Need to Value FTC Guidelines

The folks at TruthInAdvertising very publicly outed the Kardashian clan for posting carefully curated Instagram posts touting their love for products that, in fact, they were paid to promote. There are rules about that, and they are called FTC guidelines.

So why is it that the Kardashians and a handful of other celeb influencers are so glib about their fibs?

The Guidelines

The FTC guidelines are fairly straightforward. They say that if you received compensation or free product, tell your readers in a way that is “clear” and “conspicuous.” #Ad takes up exactly three characters of text and is clear and conspicuous.Truth is always better than fiction – and do they really think their fan base would prefer that they lie about their relationship with a brand?

Any influencer worth their salt will only endorse brands that they truly, madly, deeply love. Successful influencers proudly sport the badge, #Ad, on their posts because it provides clarity to their readers and followers. These three characters signal, “Yes, I’ve received sponsorship for this post.” Does it turn their readers off? If the influencer is careful in their choices and only partners with brands for whom they have a natural affinity, it should not.

The Problem

The challenge comes when an influencer appears to be hawking a brand for the sake of a paycheck alone, which may be the case with the Kardashian brood. One of the posts in question features Khloe exclaiming, “Ever since I started taking two @sugarbearhair a day, my hair has been fuller and stronger than ever!!”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a family with a fuller mane of hair. Do they really have to take two SugarBearHair’s a day to keep their locks? (Side note: The Instagram post has since been edited to include the word #Ad.)

Since being outed by TruthInAdvertising, the K-sisters obviously got the memo. Just last week, Khloe extolled the virtues of Flat Tummy Tea using not one, but two disclaimers: #Ad and #Sp.

The Takeaway: Be Clear

The real truth in advertising is that influencers who do sponsored campaigns for products should be clear and conspicuous in disclosing. The Wikipedia description of a shill is this: A person who publicly helps or gives credibility to a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization. 

Among the influencers I know and work with, I would never call any one of them a shill. They do sponsored campaigns all the time – and always disclose.

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Written by:
Danica Kombol is the CEO of the Everywhere Agency, a leading social media & influencer marketing firm that works with Fortune 500 companies. She founded the influencer network, Everywhere Society. She’s a frequent speaker at social media conferences and global forums.
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