Material connection!

May 23, 2018

Genevieve Gourdikian | Student

As more and more businesses look to influencers to disseminate messages about brand awareness on Instagram, it is important that these marketers maintain transparent practices. The FTC is aware of the drawbacks of influencers failing to disclose sponsored content on their social media channels. Truth-in-advertising is essential in all media, especially in today's age as there is an increase of content. Therefore, the FTC has the authority to prevent fraudulent or deceptive advertising and influencers are subject to follow disclosure responsibilities under truth in advertising laws and standards.

Although social media is seen as a public sphere or forum to disseminate information, users hold Instagram influencers to a higher standard and trust that what they market about a product or service is true. I believe when an influencer reposts a former ad it is not obvious to followers unless clearly stated, especially in the case of revealing endorsements or establishing "material connections". The FTC is an extension of the government that requires influencers to disclose endorsement relationships with an organization or businesses whenever a "material connection" exists with an entity. A material connection can include everything from being paid, receiving a gift, or having a family relationship with the business. This transparent practice sends a clear message to followers and makes them aware if they have been paid or given something of value to promote a product or service. Users can scroll through news feed fast enough to spot a sponsored ad, but if followers cannot tell if influencers have been paid to endorse a product, they could potentially violate FTC guidelines.

I believe the more transparent and disclosure practices the one exercises- the better. For example, utilizing the FTC compliant hashtags #ad and #sponsored at the very beginning of a caption is a great way to be on the safe side and make users aware of the relationship. It reinforces users that they can trust an honest influencer about products or services. In addition, this transparency also adds inherent value to the brand. I believe influencers can benefit from these disclosure guidelines because it holds them accountable for their relationship to followers. Furthermore, abiding by these disclosure practices not only contributes to the value of a brand, but also creates a better reputation for influencer marketing.


Genevieve Gourdikian, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Spring 2018 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question:When an influencer reposts a brand's ad or Instagram picture, do you think it's obvious that it's an ad? Or do people scroll by too quickly to notice that it wasn't the influencer's personal post? Should influencers include extra disclosures in their descriptions just to be on the safe side, or is that overkill?

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