5 Tips for Truthful and Transparent Influencer Marketing and Product Reviews
Feb 24, 2021 by Laura Brett, Vice President, National Advertising Division and Mary Engle, Executive Vice President, Policy, BBB National Programs
BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division is dedicated to truth-in-advertising. To help you ensure that your influencer marketing and the use of product reviews in your advertising are both transparent and truthful, we offer the following five tips:
1. When working with influencers or incentivizing consumers to review your product, you may be responsible for the content of their posts.
Influencer posts that promote products because of a relationship with a brand may be viewed differently than the same content that is posted organically. As a result, the FTC has made clear that disclosure of material connections is required.
Similarly, incentivized reviews may be viewed differently than organic reviews, so it is important that reviewers who received incentives to post a review note that an incentive was provided for a review. The FTC has also made clear that brands may be responsible if those posts do not have the required disclosures.
2. Tell influencers or consumers to disclose their material connection with you and monitor them to make sure they do.
In working with influencers or incentivizing product reviews, best practices require that brands have policies in place that:
- Require disclosure of material connections,
- Notify the influencer or reviewer of the requirement to disclose material connections, and
- Monitor posts to make sure that disclosures are being made.
3. Disclosures should be in plain, easily understandable language.
When reviewing disclosure of material connections, make sure that the content of the disclosure is understandable to consumers. The simple ubiquitous use of #ad is short and transparent but other disclosures may or may not be understood by consumers.
For example, our advertising self-regulatory forum determined that the disclosure that an influencer was “hosted” by the brand did not adequately identify the nature of the relationship. Other contextual disclosures like "I really love the free products X brand provided" are simple and understandable to consumers and therefore effective.
4. Make sure the disclosure is readable or audible at the same time as the endorsement message.
Disclosures should always be in close proximity to the claim that they qualify. Material connection disclosures in influencer marketing are subject to the same rule so the disclosure should be viewable in the same frame as the post if the post is visual. If the post is audio, the audio disclosure should be heard together with the endorsement message and not relegated to a part of the audio that consumers might miss.
Additionally, influencer posts are often shared and may not always be seen in their original context. Make sure that the required disclosures travel with the endorsement. With the new use of TikTok for influencer marketing, take special care to ensure that the required disclosure travels with the TikTok video if it is posted to other platforms.
5. When interacting with influencers or consumers reviewing your product, make sure you are not conveying a misleading message.
All advertising must be truthful and that is true when working with influencers to market a product or service. Though an influencer’s language about a product may be more colorful than typical brand advertising, work with influencers to make sure that their post does not cross the line and make claims about the product that are not supported.
Similarly, if consumers review your product online and make objective claims about benefits of your product that are not supported, take care not to interact with those reviews in a way that suggests the product has that benefit. Consider removing reviews that make unsubstantiated claims about objective product benefits.
In the same way that brands have policies for removing offensive reviews, policies could also mandate the removal of false or misleading reviews. Removing unfavorable reviews while only posting favorable reviews also conveys a misleading message about typical consumer reactions to your product.
In general, we recommend that you adopt clear policies for influencer marketing and the use of product reviews in your advertising, and monitor for compliance with those policies. The result will be a more truthful, transparent marketplace for consumers.