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The FTC has been top of mind lately as they recently settled their very first case against social media influencers

In response to the case, they've made more updates to their Endorsement Guides (originally published in 2015) and their Frequently Asked Questions, and even hosted a Twitter chat to address questions. The latest updates cover disclosure nuances specific to Instagram Stories, Snapchat and new in-platform disclosure features. 

As a pioneering influencer marketing agency, we've been following the evolution of the Guides closely. We've provided the main takeaways below to help you stay transparent. Whether you’re a brand or an influencer, there are 3 main principles to live by when it comes to posting sponsored content: Be honest, be transparent, be conspicuous. 

Here's how to follow the rules of FTC disclosure today:

1. Always include the word (or hashtag) "sponsored", "ad" or "paid" on all sponsored blog posts and social media posts. Tip: Some creators use the actual word, or variations of the word like {AD} or [ad], rather than an actual hashtag disclosure to avoid potential post suppression that may result from the use of the hashtags #sponsored, #ad, or #paid.

2. For real-time video on Snapchat and Instagram Stories, a prominent, superimposed verbal disclosure and/or text annotation is necessary.

3. On YouTube videos the same rules apply. The word (or hashtag) "sponsored", "ad" or "paid" needs to be included in the video description and verbally disclosed within the first 30 seconds.

4. When writing a blog post, disclosure is expected before any mention of the product or brand. We recommend including two call outs for maximum clarity: an introduction at the beginning, and a reminder at the end.

5. When promoting or teasing sponsored content from another channel, the word (or hashtag) "sponsored", "ad" or "paid" must be included. Example: If you're sharing a sponsored blog post to Twitter, the tweet must be disclosed, too.

6. Always disclose your partnerships yourself; don't rely solely on built-in platform disclosures (like Instagram and Facebook’s required branded content tools). While Instagram and Facebook now require the use of their branded content disclosures, the FTC has made it clear that built-in platform disclosures aren’t enough, and don't always meet the their requirements for clear and conspicuous disclosure. Bottom line: adhere to platform disclosure requirements and FTC requirements.

7. When a brand provides goods or services in exchange for a review (in a sampling campaign, for example), you do not need to use the words “ad” or “sponsored,” but you do need to include language that clearly states that the brand provided them for free or as a gift. Example: “Love this new BRAND PRODUCT! #BRANDgift” or “BRAND sent me their new skincare line to try. Love it!”

Here are 5 real-life examples from our community:

1. Beauty blogger, GLAMORABLE, uses the word sponsored to disclose her partnership with Jouviance in this blog post. Referring to her post as a ‘sponsored conversation’ is a unique way to make the disclosure feel authentic.

2. In her BUXOM YouTube haul video, Diana Saldana checks all the FTC boxes with a clear verbal disclosure in the first 30 seconds of the video plus a written disclosure in the description.

3. Happily Hughes begins her blog post with a clear disclosure right at the top, before any text or images. Her readers will know immediately that they’re about to read content that’s been endorsed (which is exactly what the FTC means when they say ‘be transparent!’)

4. Talented beatboxer, Marcus Perez shows off his skills, and his partnership with HP, on Facebook with the use of #ad.

5. Another short-form social disclosure example where Girl in the Red Shoes promotes her Olly Nutrition partnership on Instagram.

Properly disclosing personal endorsements online may be an evolving practice, but it is essential. As policy updates and regulations inevitably change over time, it’s our mission to stay up to date on the rules, helping both brands and influencers disclose with authenticity and confidence.