Promoting products and services via social media sites like Instagram and Facebook is big business. If you have hundreds of thousands (or millions!) of followers on Instagram, someone is probably willing to pay you to have you promote their products. There are lots of eyeballs looking at your posts, and that’s worth money. And so we call you a social media influencer.
But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has rules about that. If you’re promoting a product, it better be obvious to everyone that this is the case. More specifically, the FTC says:
In addition, the Guides say, if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed. For example, if an ad features an endorser who’s a relative or employee of the marketer, the ad is misleading unless the connection is made clear. The same is usually true if the endorser has been paid or given something of value to tout the product. The reason is obvious: Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement.
And naturally, the rules are being ignored by lots of people. It is estimated that only about 25% of influencers are actually following the rules when it comes to sponsored content.
If someone is being paid to promote a product or service on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media site, they’re required to disclose it. If they don’t, that is fraud. Concealing the fact that a post is essentially advertising is dishonest because people may think you’re simply talking about something you like rather than talking about something you’re paid to talk about. Consumers need to know that you’re making a PAID endorsement.
Truth in Advertising (TINA) has been going after abusers of the rules, filing complaints with the FTC about this behavior. Sean “Diddy” Combs was on the receiving end of one of these complaints, and quickly deleted the hundreds of posts in question.
Keep an eye out for social media posts that seem to casually mention a product or service the celebrity uses. Chances are, the post has been paid for by someone and it’s nothing more than advertising.