For startups, social media can offer cheap and effective publicity. Startups must also be mindful that any advertising, including on social media, will require you to comply with federal regulations. While sponsored content regulations once went largely unenforced against social media based advertising, times are changing. Advertising on social media is increasingly drawing the eye of regulators. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations demand honesty and transparency in advertising, and fortunately, honesty and transparency will keep your company compliant.
In 2016, the FTC sued retailer Lord & Taylor alleging the company paid online influencers to post pictures of themselves wearing a specific Lord & Taylor article of clothing. The posts failed to disclose Lord & Taylor provided the clothing for free and paid each influencer thousands of dollars. Lord & Taylor also paid for a positive review in the online publication Nylon that appeared without notice it was a paid promotion. The product sold out quickly, but the FTC sued Lord & Taylor. The case ultimately settled, and the settlement will affect Lord & Taylor for up to twenty years. Lord & Taylor did not make the posts that got them into trouble; they only failed to require the influencers to disclose their relationship with Lord & Taylor. Your company is responsible for others’ posts if you pay for the posts—tracking paid posts to ensure regulatory compliance is obligatory.