The Basics of Influencer Disclosure Guidelines

September 11, 2018

Influencer marketing is a hybrid of old and new marketing tools. Essentially it takes the idea of a celebrity endorsement and merges it into a new, modern social media space.

But it’s not only celebrities who are influencers these days.

In fact, they can be almost anyone because it’s not how well known they are to the general public that matters, it’s how influential they are within your audience. An influencer can be a popular fashion photographer on Instagram, or a well-read cybersecurity blogger, or a respected marketing executive on LinkedIn. Within any industry, there are influential people – you just have to find them and find out what type of promotions they might be comfortable working with you on and for how much.

Working with influencers isn’t just about striking a deal though, as there are some regulations that influencers and companies need to be aware of, including the FTC requirement that paid influencers disclose their advertorial relationship with the brand they are promoting.

If you’re interested in working with influencers, keep reading to find out the best ways to protect your business when participating in influencer campaigns.

#1 Use Built-In Disclosure Tools

One positive result from the efforts of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to increase transparency is that some of the best-known and most-used social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube) now provide tools to help marketers comply with existing disclosure rules.

Using these tools can drastically simplify compliance efforts while also giving you peace of mind.

Instagram – In March 2017, Instagram launched a “Paid Partnership with [business partner]” tag that makes it easier for creators to highlight sponsored posts in their feeds.

You can find this tool in the Advanced Settings section when creating a post with your Instagram Business Account.

Facebook – Facebook has similar branded content policies and tools to help simplify the disclosure process for marketers and creators. The first step for marketers is to ask creator partners to request access to Facebook’s Branded Content Tool. They can go to this link to initiate the process.

From there, Facebook lets businesses, creators, and partners tag branded content a number of ways, depending on the post type and business goal. You can read the full branded content tagging guidelines in this comprehensive Facebook FAQ.

YouTube – YouTube now allows you to add an optional text disclosure statement to any video campaign. If you’re working with a YouTube influencer, ask the influencer to go to their video manager in Creator Studio to complete the process.

Here are the steps they need to follow:

First, click the Edit button for the video asset that requires a sponsored content disclosure. On the Info and Settings tab, click Advanced Settings below the video.

Look for the Content Declaration section at the bottom right and check the box if the video contains paid promotion.

While these built-in tools may be a little extra work to set up, having them helps you to avoid any FTC disclosure issues.

#2 If No Formal Tool Exists, Follow Best Practices

If there is no formal tool for a platform, try your best to ensure that disclosure is clear with these best practices.

Hashtags – While no hashtag can equate to an official disclosure, according to the FTC, #ad or #sponsored are the preferred hashtags for sponsored content campaigns.

Brand Tag – The influencer should always tag the brand account if the social channel allows it. This is not only good to send people back to your account, but it also fully discloses the exact account in which the influencer is sponsored by.

Early Disclosure – Don’t hide the disclosure at the bottom of a long post. Keep disclosures up at the top of a post and when possible.

#3 Follow the Latest Guidelines

The internet and marketing is always changing, so the best way to ensure you stay compliant is by staying up-to-date on the latest guidelines from the FTC and beyond.

While a number of groups are working on this transparency issue, one of the newest is the Influencer Marketing Council (IMC). It’s a constellation of agencies that hopes to negotiate directly with social media platforms and the FTC as they continue to formalize future rules for sponsored social campaigns.

In the U.S., the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) is involved with disclosure rules for sponsored campaigns. Last summer, it convened a working group to develop recommendations related to the practice.

Lastly, the FTC’s What People Are Asking page is another great resource for marketers and business owners looking for answers. In addition to reiterating the best practices outlined above, you can find guidance on more complicated influencer situations like social media contests, online review programs, and more.


Influencer campaigns are becoming a huge marketing tool for many of the world’s biggest brands. However, because the tactic is still relatively new, it’s very easy for marketers partnering with them to run into issues that could result in legal and financial penalties.

The FTC recently settled its first legal case against influencers Trevor Martin and Thomas Cassell, and the organization has also been sending a growing number of warning letters to other prominent social users.

Take the time to protect your business if you plan on using influencer marketing by following the tips laid out in this article.

*Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice and is for educational purposes only.

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