Celebrities trying to influence the sale of hospitality products has a long and rich history of success. And, in today’s social media dominated-era, there are more forums than ever where these influencers can share their perspectives. Hotels and resorts routinely seek out influencers to share positive experiences at the properties, as an Instagram post of a celebrity at a resort or a restaurant often will drive guests to the property.
But recently, the Federal Trade Commission, who shares responsibility for assuring there are no false or misleading advertisements in the public domain, issued new guidance for social media influencers on how to make appropriate disclosures when their content is sponsored or an advertisement. While this guidance is directed at influencers, the obligations are reciprocal and apply to advertisers. That means hospitality companies who may be using the services of a social media influencer must be aware of the rules of the road and be prepared to ensure that their influencers are adhering to the guidelines. Below are some key reminders relating to the use of social media influencers.
- Do make sure your influencers disclose when they have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with you.
- Do require disclosure to be seen and understood; best practices depend on the social media platform. For example, a Facebook video advertisement need not present the disclosure the same way an Instagram post may. Overall, the disclosure need not dominate the content, but it needs to be clear and conspicuous and reasonably positioned to assure the viewer appreciates the relationship.
- Disclosures must use simple and clear language and indicate the sponsorship. For example, consider using the hashtags #advertisement, #ad, #sponsored.
- Be certain your influencers are only reviewing products or services that they have actually used. It is risky to ask them to opine on products or services they have not personally experienced.
- Be thoughtful about asking influencers to make claims that require proof – any statements need to be factually correct.
- Be prepared that your influencer may not give a positive review. You are required to allow them to offer their unvarnished opinion, good or bad.
It may be prudent to develop a protocol for influencers that work with your company or have counsel review your social media advertising guidelines and/or provide a tutorial on how best to comply with the FTC’s advertising rules. The fact that the FTC recently issued this guidance indicates that influencers will be an area of focus for the agency.