DJ Khaled’s Snapchat account has quickly risen in profile over the past year, with his continuous snaps about meals, music, and the keys to success. But the tone of many celebrity social media posts, including Snapchat, may soon need to change. In recent days, the FTC has made clear that it will begin to more vigorously enforce celebrity endorsements where there was insufficient disclosure that the influencer was paid to post.
But, given the prevalence of these influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers, aren’t consumers starting to realize that they are being subjected to ads? Not according to the FTC. Unlike traditional media such as television, where the audience is likely to understand that the content is an advertisement, celebrities’ and influencers’ persistent tweets and snapchats may not be understood by consumers to be marketing content that the author was paid to post. In the case of many celebrities the line between personal and professional is not always so clear. For example, DJ Khaled often snaps his healthy meals and shoe collection, thus blurring the line between those products he was paid to endorse versus those that he simply wants to share with his audience, no strings tied.
Many influencers believe the FTC’s position is unwarranted because they only tend to post about products and services that they actually support. The FTC, however, is unmoved by this argument and there may be good reason for its recent warning that undisclosed celebrity endorsements are high on its radar screen – a recent survey found that one in four influencers have been asked not to disclose their connection or that companies were not adequately policing their influencers.
Further, forms of social media that have been less strict on endorsement disclosure have seen movement toward more transparency. Even snapchats, which are somewhat less regulated and are harder to police because of their temporary nature, have seen a trend toward greater disclosure when it comes to celebrity endorsements.
Bottom line, and paraphrasing an old commercial, when the FTC talks, people should listen. Marketers and influencers alike need to figure out creative disclosures that get the message across while keeping followers interested.