Brands: How to Disclose Your (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) Sponsored Posts the Right Way

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Brands: How to Disclose Your (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) Sponsored Posts the Right Way

When it comes to legal disclosures for influencer marketing, there's a lot of confusion—among both influencers and brands. How much do you have to disclose, and what do you have to say, exactly? Do the guidelines differ depending on the platform?

At 77%, the majority of marketers say they're up to date on the fTC requirements. Only 25% actually disclose, however, and one-third of marketers admit to not disclosing on purpose.

We understand. You don’t want a boring legal disclosure to distract—or worse, dissuade—from your ad.

So why should you care? 

Unfortunately, in this case, what you want doesn’t matter. The consequences of not disclosing are very real—and very serious. If the FTC catches you or your influencers in a case of improper disclosure, you can expect a stern warning letter—with a threat of up to a $40,000 fine if you don’t comply.

The FTC isn’t playing chicken, either. Last fall, they successfully won their first court case against a brand for misleading sponsored posts.

The FTC guidelines themselves are quite long, so we’ve waded through them for you and packaged them up here for your easy reference. Review the following, share this post with your influencers, and keep your sponsored posts on the up and up!

FTC Sponsored Post Disclosure Guidelines for Influencers

In the next section, we’ll review the details for proper disclosure on all the major social platforms. But first, it’s important to understand the overarching FTC guidelines, which apply to all sponsored posts—regardless of platform.

Generally, the FTC sponsored post disclosure guidelines come down to four main points:

  1. Clearly disclose the sponsored relationship with the brand. The influencer must always disclose, even in situations where they are merely resharing your content. As long as you are compensating them with free samples, cash, or some other form of material compensation, they must disclose the sponsorship. Examples of proper disclosure include: “Sponsored by…”, “Paid advertisement by…”, or “[Brand] sent me this free sample.”
  2. Don’t rely exclusively on the platform’s disclosure tool. While these are good to use as an extra safeguard, these are not currently endorsed by the FTC. More importantly, they’re not necessarily kept up to date with the most recent FTC guidelines. For example, many of these tools place the disclosure outside of the body of the post, which is where the FTC prefer it lives, bringing us to our next point…
  3. Whenever possible, place your disclosure at the beginning of your post. Always place the disclosure above the fold. Do not hide it deep in the body of the post, after a “view more” link, “or halfway through a video. If the sponsored post is on an image-only platform, such as Snapchat, influencers can superimpose the disclosure over the image in text that noticeably contrasts with the background.
  4. Use the right hashtags, which include #ad or #sponsored. The FTC does not approve of what they call “ambiguous” hashtags, such as #thanks, #collab, #spon, #sp, or #ambassador. Ambiguous disclosures are one of the FTC’s favorite things to crack down on celebrities about, so make sure your influencers stick to #ad or #sponsored.

Helpfully, the FTC has put together an infographic to make these easy for you to remember:

Now, let’s review the specifics of disclosing sponsored posts on different social platforms.

How to disclose a sponsored Instagram post

  1. Clearly disclose the sponsored relationship in the first three lines of the post description, above the fold (before the “more” link).
  2. Include the #ad or #sponsored hashtag in the first three lines of the post description, above the fold (before the “more” link).
  3. Follow Instagram’s Branded Content Policies. Sponsored posts cannot include pre, mid, or post-roll ads in video or audio content; banner ads in videos or images; title cards in the video’s first three seconds; or mid cards or end cards that last longer than 3 seconds.
  4. Use Instagram’s built-in disclosure tool. When uploading a post, influencers can tag sponsoring brands under the Advanced Settings tab. This will display a clear “Paid partnership with [@brandname]” above their image.
  5. EXTRA guideline for Instagram Stories only: Superimpose the disclosure on the image or video in text that stands out and contrasts from the background image. Your disclosure should include the #ad or #sponsored hashtag.
  6. EXTRA guideline for Instagram Live only: Disclose the sponsored relationship at the beginning of the video and periodically throughout the livestream, as people may join afterwards and you need to give everyone the opportunity to hear the disclosure.

Here are two examples of how to do sponsored Instagram posts the right way. In their sponsored post for Netflix, National Geographic used Instagram’s built-in disclosure tool, and placed the disclosure in the second line of their description with a #sponsored hashtag. In her sponsored Instagram Story for Furbo Dog Camera, Miss Poppet the Samoyed includes the #ad hashtag in yellow-highlighted text and tags the brand.

How to disclose a sponsored Facebook post

  1. Clearly disclose the sponsored relationship in the first three lines of the post description, above the fold (before the “more” link).
  2. Include the #ad or #sponsored hashtag in the first three lines of the post description, above the fold (before the “more” link).
  3. Tag the business Page of the sponsoring brand in the post. Influencers can do this using Facebook’s built-in tool for branded content. This adds a grey “Paid Partnership” label to the top of their post and tags the brand as “with” the influencer. When creating their post, influencers will need to first click the shaking hands icon. Then they can add the brand’s name under the With field
  4. EXTRA guideline for Facebook Watch, Facebook Live, or other Facebook videos only: Superimpose the disclosure on the image or video in text that stands out and contrasts from the background image. For regular videos, this should stay visible throughout the video, in case it is played on mute. For livestreams, the disclosure should be stated at the beginning of the video and repeated periodically throughout.
  5. EXTRA guideline for employees only: If employees list your brand as their employer on their Facebook page, and they share content from your brand, they may be considered an influencer by the FTC. They must disclose their employment relationship whenever they share any content from or about your brand. They don’t have to include the #ad or #sponsored hashtag, but they should begin their post by saying “Disclosure: I work for this company/[your brand].” or “Check out this post from my company…”

Kim Kardashian may be the “riskiest” celebrity endorser for brands, but her younger sister Khloe knows how to do influencer marketing right. In her sponsored post, she displays the Paid Partnership label, tags the brand, and starts her post off with the #ad hashtag.

How to disclose a sponsored Tweet

  1. Clearly disclose the sponsored relationship and tag the sponsoring brand.
  2. Include the #ad or #sponsored hashtag in the tweet.

Currently, Twitter does not have its own guidelines around sponsored posts, but gaming influencer Ali-A ensures he follows FTC guidelines by including the #ad hashtag and explaining that Monster Energy is sponsoring a prize giveaway.

How to disclose a sponsored YouTube video

  1. Clearly and verbally disclose the sponsored relationship at the beginning of the video and mention the brand.
  2. Clearly disclose the sponsored relationship in the first few lines of the video description, above the fold (before the “more” link).
  3. Include the hashtag #ad or #sponsored in the video description.
  4. Superimpose the #ad or #sponsored hashtag on the video in text that stands out and contrasts from the background image.
  5. YouTube requires that all paid product promotion videos follow Google’s Ad Policies. You’ll want to review these in-depth but they essentially state that influencers can’t promote restricted content (like adult or political content, counterfeit goods, or alcohol) and they can’t engage in spammy advertising practices (like misrepresenting your brand, sending people to a misleading landing page, or otherwise abusing the ad network).
  6. Use YouTube’s built-in feature for paid product placements and endorsements. While editing a video, influencers can navigate to Advanced Settings. From there, they must check both boxes under Content Declaration. The first box informs YouTube of the promotional nature of the video, which is required by YouTube. The second box helps informs viewers of the promotional nature of the video, which is required by the FTC. This second box will also display a “Includes paid promotion” text during the first 10 seconds of the video.

As you can see in the below example, influencer Rudy Mancuso makes it extremely obvious that this video is sponsored by Brita. In the video description, he thanked Brita for sponsoring the video and included the #ad hashtag (which also makes it appear in blue clickable text above the video title). He also checked the box to display the “Includes paid promotion” tag for the first ten seconds, overlaid a “Sponsored by Brita” logo for the duration of the video, and verbally introduced the video as sponsored by Brita.

How to disclose sponsored Snapchat stories

  1. Clearly and verbally disclose the sponsored relationship at the beginning of the Snapchat Story and mention the brand.
  2. Superimpose the #ad or #sponsored hashtag on the image or video in text that stands out and contrasts from the background image.

Currently, Snapchat does not have its own guidelines around sponsored posts, but influencers like Musical.ly’s Baby Ariel made sure she followed FTC guidelines by including an #ad hashtag in bright red text.

How to disclose a sponsored blog post

  1. Clearly disclose the sponsored relationship at the very top of the blog post and mention the sponsoring brand.
  2. The disclosure should be noticeable and in a similar font size and language to the rest of the blog post.
  3. While the blog review or gift guide is sponsored, influencers should be invited to express their own opinions. Sample disclosures include “This post was sponsored by [brand]. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.” or “This post was sponsored by [brand], who sent me a free sample of [your product] to write a review. All opinions are my own.”

Many bloggers will simply write, “This post was sponsored by [brand],” but feel free to encourage your influencers to make their disclosures sound more genuine. One of our favorites is this example from blogger The Effortless Chic:

When it comes to the FTC, mind your Ps and Qs

Ignoring FTC rules can be one of the biggest mistakes of influencer marketing. Fortunately, you now have your failsafe guide for keeping your sponsored posts in the clear.

If you ever have a question about proper disclosure, you can always ask the FTC directly by emailing them at endorsements@ftc.gov. We also recommend following them on Twitter at @FTC. They regularly answer questions about proper influencer disclosures.

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This guide was published on December 17, 2018, and last modified on December 17, 2018.
Stores related to this article: National Geographic Online Store, Brita, Furbo, Netflix

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