Understanding the 5 W’s of Influencer Marketing Disclosure

Let’s start off by explaining what influencers are and how they can help your business. An influencer is someone with an audience of followers and a platform to engage with them on, whether that’s online via a blog or website, on social media via Instagram or Facebook, or even in-person at live events.

Brands can partner with influencers to talk or write about your company or product and share that content with their community. In a typical influencer marketing partnership, brands will compensate the influencer to promote your company to their audience, either with money, free product, or a free trial of their service.

Education Influencer Marketing

In the education arena, influencers are usually individuals with established independent credibility on the topic of education and are generally current or former teachers or administrators, education enthusiasts, professional content creators, or edtech experts. Using them to promote your products allows you to tap into their relationships with their followers and connect with parents, students, or schools.

Working with education influencers is a great way to spread the word about anything from a new product launch, to raising awareness of a cause, to promoting a free classroom materials for teachers. Word-of-mouth from a trusted source has always been an excellent method of marketing and social media makes it easier than ever to get the word out. As one of the fastest-growing online marketing channels, influencer marketing is proving to be an effective revenue driver, delivering on average a 6X return on investment.

The 5 W’s of Disclosure For Influencer Marketing

Now that you know what an influencer is, let’s talk about how they obtain credibility. Disclosure about compensation is imperative for influencers to maintain integrity with their audience – followers are usually ok with them posting paid or sponsored content, as long as the influencer is honest about it! Aside from just wanting to hold on to precious followers, it’s just as important to the brands working with influencers that disclosure is clearly marked on any sponsored content relating to their company. Here are five basic rules that brands and their influencer partners should always follow to achieve and maintain reliability and trustworthiness.

1. Who needs to disclose?

Everyone! No matter how big or small an influencer’s audience is, average joe or giant celebrity, they must always disclose that they have received compensation for promoting a product–even if it was only free product instead of actual dollars. If they hide the fact that they have received some form of compensation from your company, and their followers find out, you both will lose credibility.

2. What do disclosures look like?

Disclosures don’t have to be anything fancy. They should be simple, upfront, and easy for the audience to understand at a glance, aka: state your disclosure in plain English. Influencers should let their followers know what they have received and why. If there are character constraints such as when tweeting, a simple #Sponsored or #Ad lets everyone know that they have been compensated to write about a particular topic. As long as they are upfront about their material connection to your company, you will be in the clear.

3. Why should influencers disclose sponsored content?

In order for influencers to grow and maintain a following, they need to be seen as trustworthy. And in order to gain a follower’s trust, they must be honest about what they are writing about and be upfront about any financial arrangements with brands or companies they are promoting. Hiding the fact that they were compensated for a specific post or piece of content will lead their audience to question them; upfront honesty is always the best policy with influencer marketing.

4. Where should disclosure occur?

In the beginning of a post, or as close to the beginning as possible, is always best. If readers have to click to another page to find out that a recommendation was actually an endorsement, they will probably not be happy and will wonder why the influencer tried to bury it. We like to say the disclosure should be above the fold whenever possible. In an Instagram post, that would mean within the first 2 lines of text in a caption, since captions are cut off with a “see more” link after that. Stating disclosure at the end of an endorsement or caption is better than nothing, but it MUST be at least in close proximity to the content (not on another webpage, for example). Again, be transparent!

5. What is the risk of not disclosing?

Not to scare you, but not disclosing a compensation arrangement between a brand and an influencer could lead to fines by Federal Trade Commission for engaging in unfair or deceptive marketing practices. And brands are the ones who will be on the hook for the influencer not disclosing the relationship. Not to mention, killing your credibility amongst your followers.

So bottom line, and we can’t say this often enough, influencers are a great way to get the word out, but they must be transparent about the nature of your relationship upfront. Your followers, and your legal department, will thank you!