Social Media Influencer FTC Rules

In this post:  social media influencer FTC rules apply. Paid influencers, sponsored influencers or paid endorsements are required by the Federal Trade Commission to identify on blogs and social media – a payment was received to influence followers. Influencer agreements. Freelance travel writers.

Social media influencers are unlike freelance travel writers. First, it’s important to know and understand that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) governs websites, blogs and social media as it relates to paid or sponsored influencers. You can find an overview of the details on the attached. Influencers from outside the U.S. may not know of the rules unless the PR/social media agency bringing them to the U.S. and your destination have shared the rules or included those in the influencer agreement.

Online influencers are big business and the federal government recognized the need to step in and establish rules governing those who endorse products and services, especially on the Internet. To address this, FTC social media influencer and blogger rules were created. An extensive table of contents covers everything from how to disclose endorsements to soliciting endorsements to online review programs and testimonials.

Just so you’re aware – influencers peddle themselves and their followers (who most likely are unaware they are being used for this purpose) for a fee. Some boldly list their requirements on their websites/blogs. The topics of interest that they cover are done for money or trade-free rooms, meals, drinks, products, services and admission. So you have to ask yourself, “How genuine is this person?”

While many ooh and ahh about the idea of hosting an influencer at the local level, I continue to hear stories from restaurants, hotels and attractions – not a party to the influencer contract – that they received nothing in return. It happens again and again. Unfortunately, influencers want to visit during high season, on peak days and during prime times. I find that the majority of influencers that strictly comply with the letter of the contract are oftentimes caught up in him or herself – as evidenced by their social media accounts. Nothing free will spill over to anyone not in the contract. The exceptions are a breath of fresh air.

Traditional travel writers and true travel bloggers (not an influencer) have always gone out of their way to thank the various businesses who supported a visit to a particular destination. His or her article or blog post will highlight every experience from hotel to restaurant to tour as a way of showing appreciation.

Know this before you offer to host an influencer:  unless you are listed as a specific party to a written agreement, the chances of you seeing exposure will be limited to nothing.

As a side note, when a state or regional destination marketing organization (DMO) representative is chaperoning the influencer, it improves the chances that the influencer arrives on time and doesn’t leave the business sitting with an empty table during its busiest night or that the influencer doesn’t drink him or herself silly and order the priciest items on the menu, or show up hours late to check into his or her free hotel room when the GM had stayed late to extend a warm welcome.

As a side note, TravelCon, a convention that has occurred around the U.S. promotes itself as an event where attendees can learn the business of travel blogging. In effect, they are selling the dream and encouraging individuals to become travel influencers. They may teach attendees how to take videos, photography, write and blog, and will soon flood the market asking for freebies of the tourism industry. I’ve fielded inquiries from individuals with few followers looking for a complimentary stay or a meal. Anticipating more inquiries, I’ve saved my “let them down gently” standard email response.

If your nonprofit organization or quasi-government agency is looking for assistance with tourism marketing, destination management or product development, please contact us today.

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