At Collectively, we’re dedicated to supporting our community of content creators in partnering successfully with brand advertisers, which includes best practices for a current hot-button topic: FTC disclosures. In fact, the FTC recently sent letters to over 90 influencers, celebrities and brands to remind them of their policies for disclosing online endorsements. Then, in mid-June, WWD reported on new features being tested by Instagram to increase transparency within sponsored posts. We’ve been following the topic closely and gave our community the chance to weigh in.
What did we learn? Creators across the board are supportive of FTC policies and have adopted a strong attitude towards compliance. Surprisingly, the majority of those asked don’t feel that creativity or authenticity is hindered as a result of mandatory disclosures.
Our Creators Follow the Rules
95% of those asked feel that it’s extremely important to follow the rules set forth by the FTC. It’s not just about following the rules though; almost 100% of those asked pointed to ‘transparency with their audience’ as a main reason to disclose material connections to brands within their content.
“It's important for readers to know when a post is sponsored. People follow influencers for our honest feedback (and I think we're appealing and relatable - much more than celebrities for this reason) so it's important to me that I let my readers know when I'm partnering with a brand.” @vintagesplendor
Transparency & Creativity Are Not Mutually Exclusive
Collectively creators are some of the most talented, creative-minded people we know - so we weren’t surprised to learn that 70% of those asked don’t feel that disclosures hinder their creativity. Even if a content creator is producing an advertisement, the ad can be designed in a way that’s authentic and creative.
Engagement Isn’t Suffering
63% reported that engagement either stays the same, or increases, when material connections are included within content. Furthermore, 75% reported that their audience rarely, if ever, respond negatively to content that includes a disclosure. Those who have received negative comments or a decrease in engagement point to a lack of authenticity as the culprit. Miami Fashion blogger Daniela Ramirez says it best: “As long as the partnership makes sense, readers will understand, making it super important for creators to partner with brands that they believe in and absolutely align with their values.
Authentic Content Matters Most
The majority of creators we asked (86%) feel it’s important to maintain an even ratio of sponsored content to non-sponsored content. While some have a rule of thumb, like 80/20 or 60/40, most called out that it doesn’t really matter, as long as the content they create is unique to their own voice. In the words of Victoria Smith (@sfgirlbybay), “I owe it to my readers to create unique content for them, regardless of whether it's sponsored or not.” The takeaway? The right ratio is a matter of personal preference and varies from creator to creator. There’s one truth all can agree on: authenticity is a must or you’ll risk losing credibility with your audience.
No One (not even a Kardashian) Is Above the Law
73% of those asked believe individual social media creators and traditional celebrities should be held to the same disclosure standards. “If every person - celebrity or not - discloses in the same manner, it is providing a better user experience for those consuming the content” (@RachelsLookbook). With the rise of social media marketing, small individual creators and celebs are both endorsing products on social platforms, essentially democratizing influence. The FTC is addressing this new landscape with the goal of creating a more transparent social ecosystem where all material connections are clear and conspicuous.
Brands & Creators Are On The Same Team
Not only are creators following the rules (95% reported that they’ve never had to take down content due to FTC non-compliance) but they’re receptive to brand sensitivities. 50% reported that they’ve been asked to edit disclosures at a brand's request. A collaborative approach to partnerships fosters strong working relationships where adjustments can be made as needed – which is most important within the evolving influencer marketing landscape
Creators Care About the Future of our Industry
70% believe stronger FTC regulation will improve consistency, transparency, and accountability for brands and content creators on social media, supporting an important evolution of influencer marketing. While we don’t know what’s to come in terms of regulations, policies and platform changes, we do know that a collaborative mindset, and a commitment to adaptability will support long-term success.
Need a refresher on current FTC policies? We’ve got you covered .