Instagram 101: How Not to Get Busted by the FTC

How Not to Get Busted by the FTC

It looks like all the unregulated fun and games we were having promoting products on Instagram is about to get, well ... regulated. According to a new report by Mediakix, 93% of celebrities on Instagram are not in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission when it comes to posting paid content.

So yeah, that's a pretty massive number of IG'ers out there who aren't transparent when it comes to divulging details about sponsored content. The FTC isn't just letting all this float into the social media world either. Nope. The FTC is coming after you, influencers, so you better be ready.

In the same report, as of April 2017, 90 warnings were issued by the FTC to celebrities, influencers, and brands for violating the consumer's right to know about paid content.

Luckily, there's a way around getting that dreaded notice by the FTC. It's simple too. Let's start off with a few good and bad examples from the wonderful IG'er @shutthekaleup.

Jeanette Ogden, the women behind @shutthekaleup, is one of the most popular health and fitness enthusiasts on Instagram right now. She posts a number of photos showing off brand images of the food she eats. Though rarely, she even does some blatant sponsored content for shampoo companies, apps, or other brand-related products.

If you look at Ogden's image below, the post looks like a perfect ad for Icelandic water. Though, nowhere in that post does she mention that it is an ad. In my opinion, I have to say it looks like a sponsored post even though she doesn't mention it.

Image by Jeanette Ogden/Instagram

Ogden doesn't usually post content like this, so to me, it stands out as a possible violation of FTC guidelines, and might to the FTC, too.

Influencers, brands, you all — this is the kind of thing that you want to avoid.

If you don't want to get snagged by "the man," then follow these two guidelines for ensuring that your sponsored posts are up to FTC standards.

Do: Place FTC Hashtag Disclosure at Top of Your Posts

The FTC provides you with only three hashtags that are deemed as transparent enough for the consumer. The hashtags are: #sponsored, #ad, or #paid. You may use one or more of these hashtags within your post's immediate main description. The hashtags cannot be placed in a comment, nor can they be placed past the "more" button feature. They must be seen clearly as a user scrolls throughout their IG feed.

Don't: Replace FTC Guidelines with Anything Else

Hashtags such as #sp, #spon, #partner, or saying things in place of hashtags like "Thanks [Brand]," are not considered to be within FTC guidelines. Also, don't use phrases like "Partnering with ..." or "Collaborating with ..." or anything similar.

Instead, you can use the phrase "Sponsored by ..." with an @mention of the sponsoring brand in your post's immediate description in place of hashtagging, if you so choose.

As you can see in Ogden's next image below, she clearly stays within FTC guidelines, and out of trouble, with the #ad mention.

Image by Jeanette Ogden/Instagram

That's really all there is to it if you want to stay off the FTC's watch. Yes, I get it, I wouldn't want to put an ugly hashtag in my posts, either. Though, as of now, these are the rules that we got to follow to keep on posting, team.

If you'd like to know more about the FTC's guidelines for social media, check out the full list here.

Any other tips for avoiding confrontation with the FTC? Drop all you got in the comments below!

Cover image via Jeanette Ogden/Instagram

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