A How-To Guide for Properly Disclosing Your Sponsored Posts



Are you playing by the #SponCon Rulebook?

In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and found more than two dozen undisclosed product placements on the social media accounts of the five Kardashian/Jenner siblings. And they aren’t alone. A study found 93% of sponsored content posted by A-list influencers on Instagram did not adequately disclose the paid brand relationship.

Take another look at this post from “America’s Got Talent” judge Heidi Klum.



America might run on Dunkin, but so does “AGT.” Not all viewers know that Dunkin is an advertiser benefitting from product placement.

Argueably too dysfunctional for the Kardashians, baby daddy Lord (he paid for the title) Scott Disick, took laziness to a new level by literally copy-and-pasting instructions from the brand.

As influencer marketing grows, so will the audience’s keen eye for details and authenticity.

Here’s how to avoid paying fines and keep your social media credible. The name of the game is transparency and fair business practices.

1. Use available tools.

Instagram, Facebook and YouTube have built-in disclosure tools for business accounts. Once you’re linked, you can even check on that particular posts’s insights to see how your audience is responding.

2. A little padding.

"Don't assume that disclosures built into platforms are sufficient,” the FTC said in a Twitter chat. Disclosure tools might not be enough. Don’t just rely on a haphazard #collab or #spon in your hashtag mash. Use an unambiguous #ad right at the top of your hashtag list. Make it obvious — the reader shouldn’t have to click “see more” to notice it or have a background in marketing.

  • 62% of marketers grew their influencer budgets in 2018
  • 61% of influencers have seen an increase in sponsorship opportunities from 2017 to 2018
  • only 56% of influencers and 31% of marketers were able to correctly identify how to disclose a free product gifted to an influencer
  • only 52% of influencers and 60% of marketers have a solid understanding of FTC guidelines for sponsored posts
    -- Activate's 2018 State of Influencer Marketing Study

3. Not just cold, hard cash.

If there is a "material connection" between the endorser and brand that "might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement,” the FTC says you should disclose. "What matters is whether knowing that [the product was given] for free might affect how [the] audience views" the product or opinion of the influencer.

This includes affiliate links that provide your readers with a discount and/or gives you a kick back on sales.

4. Don’t make assumptions.

Disclose on each post. Don’t assume that each reader has mentally filed every one of your past blog posts, including the post that mentioned your new partnership with a brand you now feature prominently on your page. Don’t assume that the person reading your tweet has taken a look at your profile bio and sees that you are a brand ambassador for the tagged company.

5. When in doubt…

…disclose. If you just aren’t sure, err on the side of transparency.

The FTC endorsement guides can hardly steer you wrong. If you live outside the United States of America, make sure you check with local agencies and laws.


The FTC says disclose…

If you have a connection to the brand or advertiser, like your Aunt Edna works for the company.

If the product you’re reviewing was a freebie from an advertiser.

If your endorsement could be affected by perception, like giving a glowing review for a weekend getaway at a resort that let you live in the lap of luxury for free.

If you have a financial connection as a brand ambassador or other lucrative association.