As the hardtracking staff noted two years ago, the Federal Trade Commission has been chasing the paid posts of social-media influencers like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner.


Turns out it’s not a pretty picture at Instagram.

The wholly owned subsidiary of Facebook (a bargain at $1 billion [seven] years ago) is the mobile equivalent of three-ad monte, allowing sponsored posts to pass as genuine content.

As Gavin O’Malley wrote on MediaPost, “as its star has risen, Instagram has become a hotbed of shady marketing tactics, and influencers who specialize in blurring the line between their personal and paid-for product preferences.”


Ditto for Twitter:



In 2017 the Federal Trade Commission busted about 90 Instagram influencers via letters telling them to disclose that their posts are ads in Instaclothing.

Didn’t actually happen, even as the online advertising market on Instagram is pushing $2.5 billion a year.

So now the FTC is back with more . . . [checks notes] . . .  guidance, as Wendy Davis reported at Digital News Daily.


FTC Tells Influencers To Disclose Paid Endorsements — Again 

The Federal Trade Commission is reminding online influencers to clearly disclose any connections between themselves and the brands they promote on social media.

“If a brand gives you free or discounted products or other perks and then you mention one of its products, make a disclosure even if you weren’t asked to mention that product,” the FTC advises in the new guide, “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers,” released Tuesday.


Along with the eight-page guide, the FTC has also helpfully provided this short video. But if personal letters didn’t get the job done, how effective will voluntary compliance be? And how many online influencers even know about this new FTC effort? And how many of them are going to bother checking it out.

We’re guessing not many. We’re further guessing that with the highest-profile influencers, FTC guidance will have zero influence.


John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
John R. Carroll has 305 post(s) on Sneak Adtack