Transparency and Influencer Marketing

Trish McCabe Rawls  |  January 19, 2021

UPDATED: Original Post on July 19, 2017

We all love a good recommendation. If one of my friends mentions a really tasty restaurant, you can bet I’ll be ordering from their menu within a day or two. Or if a co-worker quips that her super cute ensemble can be scored online for peanuts, I’ll be pulling out my phone quicker than you can finish the end of this sentence. That’s influencer marketing at its most basic.

As far as those recommendations being trustworthy and authentic, I can be fairly certain that my friend isn’t getting a kickback from the pizza joint on the corner. But if you take these IRL conversations and put them online, well then… it could be a different ballgame. Here, your friend could be a blogger that happens to get free pizza for a year for her recommendation. Or your co-worker could be an Instagram influencer who happens to get paid for her gushing praise.

So, as a savvy consumer, how do you know if the hearty online product endorsements are paid or not? Fortunately, there are some transparency and disclosure guidelines/best practices out there that will give you a heads up. The Federal Trade Commission says, “bloggers that are paid to endorse products must disclose those payments to readers.” Failure to do so could result in fines or penalties.

So, the next time you’re perusing your favorite blogger, look for one of these indications to see if they have been compensated by the brand, either monetarily or with merchandise or services.

  • Bylines: A simple byline that states “this blog sponsored by (brand goes here)” can designate the content as paid.
  • In the Content: Additionally, you may see others working the fact that their blog is part of a paid assignment into the copy somewhere above the fold, as seen here.
  • Closers: Here, this blogger wraps up her post by showing that she has partnered with the brand to bring you the information. While FTC generally recommends calling out your partnership before the first mention of the brand, this practice is still common.

The takeaway here is that, for the most part, bloggers generally do a great job telling you when they are being compensated.

When this post was initially published, the FTC had yet to crack down on social media influencers. But in 2019, the FTC sent letters to 21 Instagram influencers informing them that publishing sponsored IG posts on their personal accounts without “clear and conspicuous disclosure” was a violation of the rules. The FTC then published a new guide for social media influencers.

Social media influencers were in the habit of tagging their posts with hashtags indicating it was a paid endorsement. However, the FTC said burying those hashtags at the bottom of their post (often among a flurry of other hashtags) isn’t sufficient to indicate that the influencer is being compensated. Facebook’s Branded Content and Instagram’s Paid Partnership feature were implemented to help the transparency of sponsored endorsement posts. Still, the FTC advised influencers to “consider using it in addition to your own, good disclosure.”

The bottom line is that trust and authenticity are essential. In real life and online. And safeguards like the ones detailed above help us from being misled (either intentionally or accidentally). But are they enough? Do you still wonder if Social Media Influencers are controlling your mind? Or wish you could hire one to help control the minds of others?!? Read our post about what it takes to hire a social media influencer.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram