The latest post was made from Witch Hazel Pore Strips by model Shay Mitchell, hovering around 24 million Instagram followers late February. The endorsement really worked out quite a bit and according to the commenters, if the items are good for the model it will be good for them to use as well. However, nowhere in the caption did the model reveal that she was just touting pore strips because the company paid her to do so. This omission was just as glaring as it could be but also noted to be a common violation of the rules made by the Federal Trade Commission. According to the rule, it is mandatory for influencers to let their followers know the truth and let them know that those genuine recommendations are mainly paid ads.

 
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The warning bell rang before:

The FTC has warmed the former star before to just follow up these rules before making a post. In the year 2017, it further sent letters to her and around 90 other influencers about their failures to just disclose the paid endorsements, which is also called stealth shilling. The commission is here to flag specified IG posts to each one of the influencers to remind them of the legal obligations they have to follow. In response to that, just a few of them explained that even though the posts might look like ads, they were not actually sponsored as claimed to be.

 

More about the other influencers:

Mitchell along with some of the other influencers and continuing sharing sponsored content undeterred without even identifying it clearly, which is actually promoting some of the follow-up warnings from the FTC a few months after. As the influencers are known to have a huge number of Instagram followers, so these ads are growing more frequently than what you have thought about it.

  • Mitchell, who actually updated the pore strips posts for labeling it as the sponsored endorsement, she has further shared other posts of multiple numbers to violate disclosure laws.
  • The weak enforcement of the commission has actually led multiple influencers and brands to just develop that sense of impunity.
  • It can even form to be a cost-benefit analysis and people have started making a lot of money from that. There is no such punishment available for breaking this law. So, that is what forcing more influencers to violate the law even more.

 

The idea behind stealth shilling:

The influencer’s decision to just ignore around two warnings from FTC is not that unusual among them and even among the brands, which trade endorsements quietly for the payments. There are some of the bigger names under the influencer branch, who have done the same like Akon, Snooki, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian and more.

  • IG is not quite liable for the users who actually fail to comply with the said FTC laws. Nor, it is going to be held responsible for just policing violations.
  • However, the company did actually roll out branded content tool in the year 2017 for increasing transparency, which is otherwise surrounding the business based partnerships over here.
  • This tool will help the influencers and brands to draw attention easily to their relationships. For that, they are adding pad partnership with the partner tag at top of the prioritize post list.

 

Why people still choose not to work according to FTC?

The engagement rates from influencers are now lower whenever the followers know that what they are looking for is associated with the ad. On the social media channel, the entire idea is mainly to provide the followers of the influencers to get a peek into their lives. It is more like creating that authentic and genuine connection between the influencer and follower and nothing will be able to stop buzz more than something like an advertisement.

  • The higher the endorsement of the ad is the higher will be its value as well. Again the sponsorships will deal with the influencers with consistent high engagement levels, which can prove to be lucrative.
  • The Jenner and Kardashian sisters are known for their stealth shilling and are known to earn around six figures forever sponsored post.
  • A survey was made in 2016 of around 350 influencers where it was found out that around 1 in 4 has been instructed by the brands to not disclose the commercial arrangements. However, both these parties are known to have financial incentives to just mislead the consumers and both are the ones to be held accountable.

 

Lack of any enforcement is the key:

The FTC has already provided a guide of 12 pages on its website along with the FAQ breakdown for the sake of demonstrating acceptable disclosure forms for the currently paid endorsements. Here, the placement and language matters.

  • Starting any IG caption with the hashtag or using the branded content tool of Instagram when needed is enough. Just tucking in the partner or ambassador at the end is not proper as it will not clearly explain that the poster received payment in exchange for the endorsement or not.
  • Each influencer who was put on notice in 2017 by TFC received a copy of that disclosure guide. Yet, after that of Lindsay Lohan, those who got follow-up warnings later have continued to engage in some of the deceptive marketing practices.
  • The nonprofit tracked the IG pages of around 21 repeat offenders between May 2017 and December 2018and came across around 1400 examples of posts which are skirting FTC laws, even more.
  • Later, TINA filed one formal complaint earlier this month, which will be turning findings over to the commission and just asking for any strict action to take and get this situation under control. Yet, it has not received a reply.

 

Instagram is one platform for growing business and the influencers are well-aware of that. But being honest to the followers will help them in their own ways to grow the follower’s base and also establish a good relationship with them based on trust.

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Karen is a Business Tech Analyst. She is very responsible for her job. She loves to share her knowledge and experience with her friends and colleagues.

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