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Online Endorsements: Influencers Must Disclose Connections

Posting online reviews and recommendations, or soliciting others to review a product or business, can be tricky. Be aware of the requirements if the writer (often called an “influencer”) has some connection with the business or product being reviewed.  An influencer must “clearly disclose any material connection” with what he or she is commenting on, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Endorsement Guidelines. The material connection could be if the influencer has received a payment, a free product, discount, or other thing of value from the company being reviewed. Being employed by or related to the entity being reviewed, or a similar relationship also creates a disclosure obligation. The disclosure must be prominent and appear adjacent to the review. It must clearly describe the situation. Being ambiguous, or connecting to a link on another page are examples of unacceptable disclosures. The FTC has declared that in brief social media messages, appropriate hashtags suffice as proper notice, including #ad, #sponsored, or #paid [followed by brand being reviewed].  This FTC FAQ can be helpful.