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The legal tripwires of 'influencer' marketing

The big buzz these days in the business world centers around "influencers" and influencer-marketing.

Influencers are simply people who have developed a following on social media for one reason or another. Influencers can be entertaining and often particularly knowledgeable about certain subjects. Most importantly, they have the attention of the consumers that follow them on the social platforms they use. Companies of all sizes have begun to include influencers in their advertising campaigns in order to do some highly-targeted, highly-effective marketing.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies dove into influencer marketing before they thought about the potential legal issues involved. Now, they may have developed a few bad habits that could eventually lead to legal complications -- especially now that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken note of influencer marketing and started to establish some guidelines.

What should your company be doing to stay on the right side of the legal boundaries when it comes to influencer marketing? Disclose everything about your company's relationship with the influencers you use. That's the absolute best way to stay out of trouble -- and to avoid getting sued.

Full disclosure lets consumers know that there is a paid connection between you and the influencer. That way, they know that the message they're getting is somehow supported by your company and might not be totally independent or free of bias. In other words:

  • If your company pays for a blog post, video, tweet or another piece on social media, clearly disclose that fact.
  • Do not use language that attempts to conceal the relationship in any way.
  • Do not make the disclosure hard to find.

These are not only the sort of "best practices" that keep your company from violating advertising regulations, they also enable you to retain the trust of consumers. Consumers are generally willing to overlook a paid connection between influencers and the brands that sometimes support them -- unless they feel like they've been deceived. Then, both the influencer and your brand can lose credibility -- which can ultimately destroy what you've worked so hard to build.

Source: Hey!, "7 Ways Your Influencer Marketing Could Be Breaking The Law," Dane Golden, accessed May 02, 2018

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