Influencer marketing is everywhere – while you used to be able to find it only for items like beauty products, it’s now become a major vessel for marketing strategies as major as political campaigns. But, many argue that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doesn’t do enough to ensure that social media influencer marketing is accurate.
My earlier blog post on the FTC’s social media marketing and advertising guidelines focused on guidelines the FTC shared to direct influencers in disclosing their advertising partners. Now, the FTC is deciding whether to create requirements, rather than suggested guidelines, that may have civil penalty liability attached to them.
The FTC is tasked with protecting consumers and promoting competition. To protect consumers, the FTC stops unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent marketplace practices, including advertising. Traditionally this has included television and print ads, but the FTC may be looking to increase its scope given the growth in influencer marketing.
As described in FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra’s Statement, unlike traditional methods, influencer advertising generates more data about the content users engage with and can more successfully target specific ads to specific people. This specificity is appealing to advertisers – in 2019 alone, companies spent $8 billion on social media influencer advertising. This number is expected to increase to $15 billion by 2022.
Unfortunately, social media influencer advertising is troubled by the same issues that exist in other areas of the internet – fake accounts, fake likes, fake followers, and fake reviews. Commissioner Chopra is concerned that companies paying for undisclosed influencer endorsements and reviews aren’t held accountable.
These potential new regulations (and penalties) will affect all businesses that do any marketing with social media influencers as the potential regulations focus primarily on the businesses paying for advertising, not just on the influencers themselves. One prime example is the skincare brand Sunday Riley, which the FTC recently charged with deceptive practices for posting fake reviews of their products on Sephora.com.
Do you have an opinion on what the FTC should do? The FTC wants to hear from the public before making any decisions on how it will regulate influencer marketing going forward – this includes any individual with an interest in the regulation. Visit this link to submit your thoughts via the public comment process. Comments are due on April 21, 2020 at 11:59 PM ET. You can visit regulations.gov to learn more about how to submit effective comments.