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Product Endorsements on Social Media: Know the Legislation

As social media marketing and online brand ambassadors continue to become more and more prevalent, legislation has had to adapt quickly to keep up. That being said, not every bit of legislation has had the creases fully ironed out, leaving social media users unsure and ill-informed about what they are allowed to say. Even Kim Kardashian ended up in the firing line of the FDA over an unclear endorsementHere, we hope to clarify the major legal points you need to know before you begin a business relationship with a brand online.

Kim Kardashian's Diclegis Endorsement
First, we should define what exactly qualifies as a paid endorsement. If you are offered something of value in return for mentioning or reviewing a product or brand, that counts as a paid endorsement no matter how small the payment is perceived to be. This can include anything from free use of a product to monetary payments to simple publicity. Even something as simple as being told you may appear in a TV ad featuring your comments can be perceived to have enough value to effect your statement, and as such is covered by the same legislation as any other form of paid endorsement. In any of these above cases you must provide a disclosure to inform your followers of the paid, promotional nature of your content.

If you are just commenting on a product you have used, however, this does not qualify. As long as the manufacturer or marketer hasn't offered you any kind of incentive to give their product a mention it isn't defined as an advert and you can post without worry.

Before we go on to talk about the measures you need to take to ensure your content is properly represented as promotional material, we should quickly touch on what exactly you're allowed to say about the product itself. As a paid ambassador you are subject to the same laws as the marketer themselves, so you need to make sure you can back up any claims you make. Just try to be honest and don't make any statements about the product that the brand wouldn't make themselves and you should be fine.

Poppy Delevigne's Louis Vuitton Endorsement
So what measures do you need to take to protect yourself if you are offered such a partnership? The key word here is clarity. It needs to be 'clear and conspicuous', according to FTC guidelines, that the post is in fact a paid promotion. This should be outlined early in the post or video, preferably as close to the relevant statement as possible, in order to ensure that anyone who hears or sees your testimonial is also adequately informed about your business relationship with the brand or marketer.

These 'disclosures' are often where the issues arise. What constitutes an adequate disclosure? Where should the disclosure be placed? How frequently should it appear? These are all vital questions that all too many people fail to properly answer, often landing themselves in hot water as a result.

The disclosure itself can be fairly basic. You don't need a lawyer's advice in order to write it, so long as it makes it abundantly clear that you have a business relationship with the brand or manufacturer. A simple statement along the lines of "Company X gave me this product to try..." or "Some of the products I’m going to use in this video were sent to me by their manufacturers", placed before the endorsement itself, should keep you covered in most cases. If the post is obviously an advert you do need need to make a disclosure, but the rules governing what qualifies as 'clear and obvious' are somewhat lacking. So you are safest placing a disclaimer on all your paid posts just to play it safe. You don't need to state exactly what or how much you were offered, as long as you do state that some form of value changed hands in exchange for your content.

Gabby Epstein's Fly Nation Endorsement
As mentioned before, the disclosure should be included as early as possible within your content to ensure that all viewers see it. It must also, in the case of video, remain on screen long enough to be easily read. Where possible, try to present the disclosure in such a way that both the endorsement and disclosure are visible on the same screen. Disclosures placed at the end of videos or written content are considered inadequate, as your followers would have to carry on scrolling or watching after the bulk of the content has already finished in order to be made aware of your business relationship.

How frequently your disclosure is required to appear will depend heavily on the medium used to share your content. For written promotions, one statement at the beginning of the piece should be enough, but video is a little more complicated. To make sure you're covered I would recommend having the disclosure appear on screen as an annotation whenever you refer to a product you are being paid to promote. At least that way there is no way anyone can hear your statements about the product without also seeing the disclosure.

Hopefully this article has helped you to understand the ins and outs of paid promotional posts on social media. If you could do with a little extra insight, America's FTC (Federal Trade Commission) publishes an excellent free guide available to view online in PDF format.



Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. Currently working as Editor of Social Songbird, he hopes to one day drop that 'aspiring' prefix. Follow him @SamAtSMF


Contact us on Twitter, on Facebook, or leave your comments below. To find out about social media training or management why not take a look at our website for more info: TheSMFGroup.com
Product Endorsements on Social Media: Know the Legislation Reviewed by Sam Bonson on Thursday, January 07, 2016 Rating: 5

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