The Power of Influence: Navigating FTC Guidelines for Consumer Generated Content

Common Thread Collective

by Common Thread Collective

Jul. 28 2023

On June 29th, 2023 the FTC updated their guidelines for disclosures in influencer and consumer generated content (CGC), and lucky for us, they also dropped several articles on their website and a very long FAQ to make things super clear. Hope everyone added a block on their calendar to read and digest thousands of words on FTC compliance on a summer Friday!

Just kidding. Here at CTC, we took the time to read through everything and create a Cliffs Notes version for everyone. You’re welcome ;)

In all seriousness, complying with FTC guidelines is essential to keeping your business, and your influencer and CGC partners, out of trouble. Truth in Advertising is federal law, and the FTC has been deputized to ensure brands live up to these standards in all of their advertisements and endorsements, even those from their customers.

The good news is these new guidelines are fairly straightforward, so we’ve boiled them down into a handy list to help you stay on top of it all …

The Ten Most Important Things to Know About The FTC & CGC

  1. Disclose, disclose, disclose.

    If a content creator has any “material connection” to your brand, including financial, professional, or personal relationships, they have to disclose that in their content. This doesn’t just apply to content you have commissioned– if you gift a product to someone, offer a discount, or even offer it as a prize, they’ve got to disclose. So let’s just say when in doubt, disclose it out.

  2. Exaggerating is bad, lying is worse.

    Endorsements need to be completely honest, and product benefits may not be exaggerated. So yes, this means if you advertise mascara, your CGC cannot include someone wearing false eyelashes. And if a content creator makes a factual claim (like a health benefit) you best have the data to back them up.

  3. Be clear as crystal.

    Disclosures are not the place to try and be cute. This is the place to be absolutely clear. Steer away from words like ‘partner,’ ‘gift,’ ‘thanks,’ and ‘ambassador.’ Lean into words like ‘ad,’ ‘advertisement,’ or ‘sponsor’ and ‘sponsorship.’

  4. Don’t make people click.

    Not only should disclosures not be buried in a jumble of copy or hashtags, they actually need to appear before any ‘...more’ links. Simple as that. Don’t make people click to see ‘em.

  5. Show AND tell.

    Placing disclosures solely in the copy that accompanies a video or image post is not sufficient. So CGC should include disclosures on images and in the contents of a video, too. This isn’t an either-or situation. It's both-and.

  6. Don’t rely on the platforms.

    Just because some platforms offer tools to help make disclosures doesn’t mean you can count on them to keep you covered. Content creators should use both the tools provided by the platform, and ensure disclosures are called out in their content and their copy.

  7. Going the distance? Take breaks to disclose, disclose, disclose.

    If a content creator’s video is long, or they speak about your brand on a livestream where the conversation goes on for quite a while, they’ll need to reference their disclosures more than once. Better safe than sorry. Especially with live content where consumers may start watching mid-way through the stream.

  8. Friends and family are influencers, too.

    We mentioned personal relationships earlier (read: #1) but just to be clear, it turns out friends and family of the brand are a big deal, too. And they’ve got to disclose their relationships if they’re going to make endorsements.

  9. Affiliate links are ads.

    Affiliate links are a form of compensation, which means the content creator has a financial relationship to the brand. That’s got to be disclosed clearly.

  10. Don’t get caught without protection.

    As in much of life, it’s best to have your bases covered. Make sure your agreements with content creators clearly specify disclosure guidelines and require them to comply. That way you’re not the only one on the hook if the FTC comes knocking.

Common Thread Collective

Common Thread Collective is the leading source of strategy and insight serving DTC ecommerce businesses. From agency services to educational resources for eccomerce leaders and marketers, CTC is committed to helping you do your job better.

For more content like this, sign up for our newsletter, listen to our podcast, or follow us on YouTube or Twitter.