Influencer marketing is a great way for creators to make money on Instagram — especially as the industry has boomed in recent years.
By creating and promoting sponsored content featuring a brand's product (or service), some creators can make thousands of dollars for just one post.
But as the saying goes: more money, more problems.
Creators who don't properly disclose their sponsored Instagram posts could get in trouble with the FTC and lose their credibility in the process.
So, we're breaking down who the FTC are, why it's important to disclose paid partnerships on Instagram, and most importantly — how to do it.
Table of Contents
Why Should Creators Disclose Sponsored Instagram Content?
Authenticity is the bread and butter of influencer marketing.
Whether it’s a sponsored or organic post, users trust the creators they follow to provide genuine recommendations that align with their interests:
So, when creators post an ad without a disclaimer, it can feel disingenuous and their credibility may be called into question.
Not to mention, creators (and brands) can get into trouble with the FTC too.
Over the years, brands like Lord & Taylor and Teami have been charged with “hiring influencers who failed to adequately disclose that they were being paid to endorse [their] products on social media.”
Be open and honest with your community about whether something is paid for (or gifted) — especially if you're encouraging them to buy it themselves.
Who Is the FTC?
Before we get into the how, let's quickly share the who.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is tasked with the prevention of fraudulent or deceptive advertising, and “educating marketers about their responsibilities under truth-in-advertising laws and standards.”
Their mandate includes cracking down on how influencers disclose their sponsored posts — because if they catch you, you could face civil or even criminal fines.
The FTC requires you to disclose when you have a financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand.
It’s about making sure your followers are aware when you’ve been paid (or given something of value) to promote a product — as opposed to recommending a product because you simply like it.
In a nutshell, it all comes down to transparency.
How to Properly Disclose Sponsored Instagram Posts
In order to properly disclose your sponsored Instagram posts, you need to follow the FTC’s recommendations:
Place Your Disclosure So It's Hard to Miss: Make sure your disclosure is instantly obvious to anyone who engages with your content. For example, in Feed posts, the disclose should be clearly visible in the first few lines of the caption.
Use Simple and Clear Language Throughout: Simply and clearly state that the content is an ad, it's been sponsored, it's a partnership, or thank the brand for sending you a free product. Simply tagging the brand is not enough.
Use the Same Language Throughout: It may seem like a given, but it's important to note that your disclosure must be in the same language as the endorsement itself. For example, if a caption about a partnership is written in German, your disclosure should be in German too.
Don't Assume a Platform's Disclosure Tool is Good Enough: Many social platforms, including Instagram, have brand partnership labels for sponsored content. While you should definitely use them, the FTC says these built-in tools might not be good enough. Their advice? Use these tools alongside your own clear and accurate disclosure.
Share Honest Endorsements Only: Even if the partnership is fully disclosed, you should share your honest opinion. For example, don't share a positive review if you had a negative experience. And don't make up false claims about a product or brand.
For the full list of rules, the FTC published a guide in 2019 for influencers to follow: Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers.
While influencer-driven marketing is one of the best ways to reach targeted audiences on social media, it’s important for both influencers and businesses to make sure their partnerships are properly disclosed on Instagram.
Our advice? Keep up-to-date with the FTC’s guidelines, and when in doubt, disclose!