Recently on my weekly live video show I talked about a competition hosted by a US brand on Periscope. The objective for them was to really build more visibility of their brand on National Chicken Wing Day in the US. As I discussed in the show, they did grow their followers on Periscope as followed the brand account for the opportunity to win prizes.
Increasingly over the years, brands have partnered with social influencers providing them with product for give-aways and competitions for their followers. This has also given the opportunity to the influencers and the brands to both grow their accounts – many times an entry requirement is to ‘follow’ both the influencer and the brand social media accounts.
But are the competitions and give aways that are hosted compliant with all the guidelines they need to take into account? I find through my research that even some of the biggest and well known brands fail to ensure that the influencers they work with are compliant. We will explore some examples in this article.
This is the second in a series of in-depth articles about social media compliance and disclosures. Read the first article here – it is a primer on social media disclosures for brands, agencies and social media influencers.
If You Promote Products And Services With An Affiliate Link You Must Display Disclosures
Today I received an email notification from a brand I am an affiliate of. I love their service and paid attention to the communication as they were providing tips on how to promote your affiliate link. But there was one key paragraph missing from the email. They failed to remind their affiliates to disclose that they will be getting a referral fee when promoting the product.
In the aftermath of live stream platform Blab closing down, I am noticing a number of prominent live streamers in the US promoting live stream platforms, offering their followers discounts if they use an exclusive code. But in none of the social media posts, blog posts or live streams that I have viewed has the influencer disclosed they are an affiliate partner – or not. This is gross negligence especially as the people promoting the live stream platforms are established online marketers and are aware of the FTC guidelines.
In the example below of a live streamer, they prominently promote brands on their website – it is not clear what the relationship is with the brands.
When you head to their products page, all the products referenced have a link to their Amazon account – but there is no reference to these being affiliate links anywhere on their site. Again this is in breach of FTC guidelines.
It is not sufficient to just publish an affiliate disclosure policy on your site – you need to have this prominently displayed on your post, your social media post and even in your live stream, podcast or recorded video. Even in your email marketing communication if you use it to promote products and services you are an affiliate for.
But affiliate programmes are not the only area that social media influencers are failing to disclose and be compliant with legislation in their live video content or social media posts.
When Hosting Sponsored Competitions You Must Be Compliant With Disclosure Guidelines
Hosting competitions and give-aways are a great way to build your social media following.
However you need to ensure that you are compliant with legislation and guidelines for competitions on the social media platforms themselves, the sector and industry in the geographic region you are hosting the promotion AND if you are an influencer or a working with an influencer you must comply to social media disclosure requirements.
Let’s use as an example the Anker brand. I personally use and love the brand so it is disappointing to see the social media influencers they are working with do not comply with social media disclosure requirements. You can see in these examples that Anker have provided products to a number of YouTube creators and live streamers for them to give to followers through competitions.
Why is this example not compliant with the FTC guidelines? One of the issues I referenced in the in-depth review I did of social media compliance was the non compliance of FTC guidelines by Warner Bros.
Earlier this year, The Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with Warner Bros. as influencers they were working with on YouTube had not added the disclosure “above the fold,” – it was stated that consumers should nove to click on the “Show More” button in the description box on YouTube.
But this is not a lone case- in this competition on YouTube the content creator is in breach of the the FTC guidelines for the same reason.
It seems that Anker have been working with live streamers to promote their products. Here is an example of someone hosting a give away on Periscope. To be compliant, the fact this was a sponsored give-away should have been in the title of the live stream on Periscope, and prominent in all other promotions about the event such as Tweets giving advance notice of the Anker give-away.
Anker were themselves promoting the give-away with the live streamer on their Twitter time line several times over. Perhaps the live streamer was not paid to do the give-away – the brand was still sponsoring the promotion so it should have been disclosed.
Anker is essentially providing at a minimum product to live streamers – and the give-aways are building their Twitter following and at the same time the live streamer grows their account.
What then compounds the issue of compliance is that after the give-away for the Anker products on Periscope the live streamer encourages people to check out the products on Amazon if they did not win a portable charger in the live stream. What they fail to disclose in the Tweet is that the link is their own affiliate link on Amazon and if people purchase through that link they will receive a small payment.
See below another example for the Anker brand where the social media influencer states in the Tweet that people have to follow both their own and the Anker Official Twitter accounts for people to be included in the draw. But note also the fact there is no disclosure that this is sponsored – usually indicated with #ad or #sponsored in the Tweet.
The disclosure should be prominent in every post about the give-away – see another example below where the disclosure was not referenced in the title of the Periscope which then was published to Twitter.
Some Social Media Influencers Are Beginning To Disclose Sponsorships But Fail To Disclose Affiliate Promotions
We are however seeing some social media influencers disclosing in their posts where they have been sponsored. See this example from an Irish Instagram account.
However if you are an influencer, you must take care that what you promote is congruent with your brand values and what you stand for – in this example below you can see that followers were not happy that the social media influencer was posting sponsored content from an alcohol brand.
Unfortunately that same social media influencer fails to disclose that they have an affiliate or referral promotion for some posts with LikeToKnow.it.
What Does This Mean For Brands, Agencies And Social Media Influencers?
There have been many reports this last 18 months of brands failing to disclose sponsorship agreements with social media influencers.
If you are a PR professional, are working in an agency responsible for social media influencer campaigns or a brand manager you MUST become familiar with the social media compliance requirements in your market. A good starting point is this comprehensive article about social media compliance and influencer marketing. It provides examples of brands who have not been compliant and why, plus links to social media compliance guidelines.
When you agree a campaign with a social media influencer, you need to also ensure that they understand what is required in relation to social media compliance.
You must review the promotional posts influencers are making in relation to your sponsorship and tell them where they need to change the post if they are not compliant – after all it is your brand and business that will be brought to task by enforcement agencies and your reputation online will suffer!
If you are still unsure about working with social media influencers to help promote your brand, you can schedule a confidential conversation with me.