FTC Guidelines For Influencers: Requirements and Rules

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Being a social media influencer is like owning your own business, and advertisers — and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — are aware that you may sway your followers’ buying choices.

Therefore, the FTC provides influencer guidelines that impact how you disclose endorsements, sponsorships, and partnerships with other brands and companies.

Failing to follow these guidelines could lead to the termination of your business contracts, hefty fines, and the loss of the trust of your followers.

This comprehensive guide covers all relevant FTC rules and requirements for influencers, provides you with a list of what to do and not to do with sponsored content across different platforms, and looks at what the future holds for influencers and sponsored ads.

Table of Contents
  1. Key Takeaways
  2. What Is the FTC?
  3. What Is an Influencer?
  4. Summary of FTC Guidelines for Influencers
  5. Advice for Influencers to Comply With the FTC
  6. Examples of the FTC Cracking Down on Influencers
  7. What Does The Future Look Like for Influencers?
  8. FTC Influencer Guidelines FAQs
  9. Summary

Key Takeaways

In November 2019, the FTC re-released a set of social media guidelines for influencers to help ensure your sponsored posts are clearly labeled and abide by the relevant endorsement laws and requirements, which include the following key takeaways:

The do’s:

  • Do disclose if you have a financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand
  • Do make all of your discloses unambiguous and easy to find, read, and understand
  • Do make your disclosures directly within your endorsement itself

The don’ts:

  • Don’t assume your followers already know about your relationships with brands
  • Don’t only disclose your endorsements in the description sections of videos, social media posts, or podcasts, (you must also state them out loud)
  • Don’t make users click ‘View More’ to actually see your endorsement
  • Don’t use vague language, shorthand, or confusing terms like “sp” or “spon”
  • Don’t talk about products you have not experienced
  • Don’t make claims the advertiser cannot substantiate or back up with evidence
  • Don’t lie about a product just because you were paid

The FTC guidelines for social media influencers apply to anyone with a platform, like bloggers, celebrities, gamers, brand ambassadors on Instagram, and athletes.

You must follow the FTC ad disclosure guidelines or risk losing your business contracts, public mistrust, and paying potential fines.

What Is the FTC?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a government agency in the United States that protects consumers by preventing deception, unfair business practices, and unfair methods of competition through law enforcement.

They also provide US consumers with:

  • Advocacy
  • Research
  • Educational materials

Initially founded in 1914 to help dissolve and fight against American industrial monopolies, the FTC is the only federal entity that protects consumers and has jurisdiction over competition and other broad facets of the economy.

For internet influencers, the FTC dictates how you can legally and fairly promote sponsored or endorsed goods and services across various platforms, including but not limited to:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • TikTok
  • Blogs
  • Websites
  • Apps

What Is an Influencer?

Generally speaking, an influencer is anyone in a niche, industry, or community who has sway over their targeted audience and includes:

  • Athletes
  • Celebrities
  • YouTubers
  • Instagrammers
  • TikTok stars
  • Twitch streamers
  • Twitter users
  • Brand ambassadors
  • Bloggers
  • Other social media platforms

But according to the FTC’s Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers, an influencer is any individual, group, or institution that works with brands to recommend or endorse products to a group of followers or an audience.

The FTC’s definition is important to focus on because they’re the federal agency responsible for setting the standards and enforcing the laws influencers are expected to follow when making product endorsements.

They’re also the entity that penalizes those who fail to comply.

Look at the screenshot below for the FTC’s specific definition of endorser from their most recently updated Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which applies to social media influencers.


So if a brand works with you and does any of the following, you’re considered an endorser and must follow the FTC guidelines:

  • Pays you to review their items
  • Gives you items in exchange for a review
  • Partners with you in any way that results in sharing your experiences publicly

Now let’s discuss why the FTC cares so much about how influencers endorse products and cover the dos and don’ts under the most recent guidelines.

Why Does the FTC Care About Influencers?

The FTC cares about how influencers endorse products because it’s considered a deceptive practice in the marketplace if anyone, especially an influencer, acts like they’re sharing an organic opinion about a product when a material connection exists.

Influencers have tremendous power to influence the buying choices of their followers, and the FTC is well aware of this reality.

So in 2017, in response to several complaints from consumers and organizations over the integrity of influencer social media posts, the FTC sent 90 letters reminding athletes, celebrities, influencers, and marketers about their fair competition Endorsement Guidelines.

These Endorsement Guidelines are not new and apply to any business using endorsements as part of their advertising, not just influencers. But when they were originally enacted in the 1980s, the internet was still in its infancy, and social media didn’t even exist.

As technology advanced, it drastically changed how we market to consumers, so the FTC amended the guidelines in 2009 to reflect modern technology and still maintain fair endorsement practices.

In May of 2022, there was talk about tightening the provisions further to account for the ways technology and social media have impacted consumer marketing techniques, specifically they:

  • Clarified that fake reviews are covered under the guidelines
  • Added a new principle stating that advertisers should not procure, suppress, boost, organize, or edit consumer reviews, nor should they misrepresent how consumers feel about their products
  • Modified the definition of ‘endorser’ to include virtual influencers, meaning computer-generated and fictional characters.

So let’s go over what influencers can and can’t do when endorsing products.

Summary of FTC Guidelines for Influencers

According to the FTC guidelines, influencers should always make it very clear to their followers if a post, video, or statement they’re making is in a material partnership with the owner of the product.

The FTC defines a material partnership as any of the following:

  • Contracts with a business
  • Family relationships
  • Monetary payments
  • Provisions of free products for the influencer

However, the FTC defines “material partnership” broadly so even if you just receive a discount or obtain any kind of benefit from the product owner, this will be considered as “material partnership”.

  What You Can’t Do

According to the FTC guidelines on endorsing products, goods, or services, influencers can’t:

  • Assume followers already know about your brand relationships and, as a result, not disclose your partnership with a brand
  • Only disclose the endorsement in the description of videos, posts, or podcasts, and not verbally state that you’re part of a brand deal
  • Only make your endorsement information visible to users by making them click the ‘View More’ button on different social media platforms
  • Use vague language, unfamiliar shorthand, or confusing terms like “sp” or “spon” so that it isn’t clear to your users that you’re part of an endorsement
  • Talk about products you’ve never actually received, experienced, or used
  • Make claims about products that cannot be substantiated or backed up with evidence from the owner of the product
  • Lie about a product and your feelings simply because you were paid
  • Saying that a product was good despite thinking that it was terrible

  What You Should Do

Now that you know what not to do when endorsing a product, let’s discuss some of the things you should do to remain compliant with the FTC guidelines:

  • Always disclose if you have a financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand whose product you are talking about, regardless of if your opinion is a positive or negative one
  • Make all of your disclosures on every platform unambiguous, easy to find, easy to read, and understandable
  • Whenever you make an endorsement, always transparently disclose to your audience that it is an endorsement, no matter what platform you’re using
  • If you own a website, blog, or app, post an affiliate disclaimer in multiple spots to keep your followers informed

👩‍💻 Guidelines Depending on Your Platform

Speaking of platforms, the way you display, share, or communicate your endorsement as an influencer varies slightly depending on what social media website or app you’re using.

Below, we created a table summarizing where and how to disclose and post your sponsorships across social media platforms and services per the FTC guidelines.

Type of Content Platform Examples FTC Guidelines for Influencers
Static images or posts Instagram posts, Facebook posts, Twitter posts
  • Put your endorsement disclosure in the description above the ‘View More’ button, so followers always see it.
  • On Instagram, use the ‘Paid Partnership with…’ option found in the location tag.
  • You may also use a clear hashtag, like #sponorship #advertisement, but this alone is not enough.
Temporary images or videos Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram Stories, Instagram Reels, Facebook stories
  • Superimpose your disclosure statement about your endorsement over the temporary photo or video and put details in the description above the ‘View More’ button.
Live streams Twitch, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Reddit Live, TikTok Live
  • Disclose your endorsement repeatedly, both verbally and in writing on the screen, so viewers seeing only part of the stream know about the sponsorship.
Videos YouTube, Vimeo
  • Verbally state your disclosure out loud and include a written version of the endorsement in the video’s description.
Podcasts Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts
  • Verbally say your disclosure out loud throughout your podcast and include written details about it in the description.


At the end of the day, the FTC and your followers want to know when you’re giving an organic opinion about a product or service versus when you’re talking about something because you were paid, are under contract, or have some other obligation.

Do your best to always properly disclose any brand deals, endorsements, or partnerships you’re part of, and you’ll stay out of trouble with the FTC and your followers.

Advice for Influencers to Comply With the FTC

Deceiving your followers about products you’re endorsing is a bad look that can have lasting impacts on your brand, so we recommend following this easy advice to ensure you always stay in line with the FTC disclosure guidelines:

  • Be transparent with your disclosures
  • Read the social media policies for brands you work with
  • Understand local and regional laws that impact you
  • Think of your status as an influencer like it’s your business

Be Transparent With Endorsement Disclosures

The easiest way to avoid trouble with the FTC is to follow their guidelines, which means being incredibly transparent whenever you’re endorsing a product.

No matter what social media platform you use, make sure you’re clearly informing your viewers, listeners, or followers about all brand deals you are part of, including:

  • Endorsing a product owned by yourself, a friend, or family
  • Sharing your opinions about products you’ve received for free
  • Talking about products when you’re under a contract with the brand

The FTC has made it clear that hiding a hashtag in the description of your post is no longer enough for social media influencers. We recommend you do all of the following for every brand deal you’re part of, when possible:

  • Verbally say your disclosure out loud in videos, podcasts, or audio platforms
  • Write your disclosure in the description or superimpose it on a temporary image or video
  • Include a clear hashtag like #sponsored or #advertisement above the ‘View More’ tab

Read The Social Media Policies For Brands You Work With

Whenever you agree to endorse a product, ensure you always read and follow the brand’s social media policy.

If the company doesn’t include their policy as part of your contract or share it with you in some way, don’t hesitate to ask about it.

It’s in your best interest to look out for yourself and your followers, especially if the brand doesn’t have a social media policy or behaves in ways that seem to not comply with FTC Guidelines.

Pay attention to any red flags like this, and never hesitate to reconsider the deal if you don’t think the other brand is following the law.

Understand Local and Regional Laws

As a social media influencer, you must understand that some regional laws and regulations impact how you conduct business, and the FTC Endorsement Guidelines are just one instance of this.

For example, if you have a website or blog that uses cookies, or if you collect any personal information from your users, and some of your followers are from the European Economic Area (EEA) or states like California, you might be subject to following data privacy laws like the:

  • General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR)
  • California Online Consumer Protection Act (CalOPPA)
  • California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA)
  • California Privacy Regulation Act (CPRA)

These laws have different requirements you must follow, like asking for explicit user consent under the GDPR before data tracking begins, including cookies.

You also might need to post the following legal agreements, forms, links, and policies on your website or blog, which must be free of confusing jargon or legalese:

It’s your responsibility to follow all relevant laws that impact you as an influencer, so make sure you put in the time and effort to do the proper research.

But if you want some guidance, check out our full suite of policy generators and solutions —  helping small businesses, including influencers, with comprehensive privacy compliance is kind of our thing.

Think of Being An Influencer Like It’s Your Business

To help you stay on the right side of the law, think of being an influencer like it means you own a business and follow those relevant laws, regulations, and guidelines.

In fact, you might have already formed an LLC, which is common for people making their living as content creators.

You’ve worked hard to create a brand for yourself and maintain a relationship with an audience of consumers, which means you potentially have the power to sway their buying choices. The FTC is also aware of this and continues to update their guidelines to ensure that social media influencers are adequately held accountable for how they interact with the fair market.

If you’re ever caught doing any deceptive practices, the FTC will hold you responsible.

Examples of the FTC Cracking Down on Influencers

Get ready to read some drama because, in the next section, we’re covering some of the recent FTC crackdowns on social media influencers who were deceiving their followers about products they were endorsing, including:

  • November 2017 — CSGOLotto, Trevor Martin, and Thomas Cassell (FTC)
  • December 2019 — UrthBox, Inc. (FTC)
  • February 2022 — Teami, LLC (FTC)
  • Other notable cases

The Case of CSGOLotto: Impartial Reviews and Failure of Disclosure


In 2017, the FTC settled its first-ever case against social media influencers, which involved Trevor Martin (TmarTn) and Thomas Cassell (Syndicate), who both had large followings in the gaming community and endorsed the gambling service CSGOLotto without disclosing that they jointly owned the company.

You read that correctly; the two men regularly posted videos of themselves gambling on the website and encouraging their followers to do the same, all without ever stating that Martin was the President and Cassell the Vice President of the company.

CSGOLotto is named after the multiplayer online first-person shooter, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or CS:GO. Their website allowed users to gamble for collectible virtual items, called skins, that can be bought, sold, and traded for real money.

On CSGOLotto, users can challenge each other to a coin flip using their skins as the wager. Starting as far back as 2015, Martin and Cassell began posting videos of themselves gambling on the website, generating millions of views.

They also tweeted about their winnings, sometimes touting rewards as high as $13,000.

Allegedly, they even paid several other well-known gaming influencers anywhere from $2,500 to $55,000 in skins or cash to promote the site on platforms such as:

  • Youtube
  • Twitch
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Their contracts with the other influencers included stipulations that they could not post anything that might impair the gambling website’s name, reputation, or goodwill.

So not only did they fail to disclose their material relationship with the company they owned, but they also falsely claimed their videos and the promotions from the other gaming influencers were the independent opinions of impartial users.

Last time we checked, being contractually bound not to say anything negative about a service is actually the opposite of being impartial, and the FTC agrees.

This groundbreaking case proves that the FTC can hold influencers accountable for their marketing and endorsement practices in the same ways they hold businesses accountable.

Don’t make the same mistake.

If you own a company or are part of a brand deal, transparently disclose those details to stay on the good side of the FTC and your followers.

The Case of UrthBox: The Average Consumer and Material Relationships


UrthBox, a company that sends snack boxes to consumers, was sued by the FTC in 2019 for misrepresenting consumer reviews online — proving that the FTC Endorsement Guidelines apply to anyone with a material relationship and a platform, not just businesses and social media influencers.

The company failed to disclose that positive reviews on websites like the Better Business Bureau were not impartial because some users received free snack boxes in exchange for the review.

While only UrthBox was held legally responsible for the deception, the ruling clarifies that even the average consumer must follow the FTC Endorsement Guidelines when leaving reviews if a material relationship exists.

The Case of Teami: Unsubstantiated Product Claims


The FTC sued Teami, LLC in March 2020 for using deceptive marketing and health claims, notably holding the company liable for false statements made online by the celebrities and social media influencers they partnered with.

The lawsuit resulted in Teami returning more than $930,000 to over 20,000 customers who purchased products. It also exposed celebrities and social media influencers who posted false, misleading, and inaccurate information on Instagram about the teas and other goods sold by Teami.

Teami tried to claim that they gave the influencers a social media policy that followed the FTC Endorsement Guidelines.

But, while most of the social media posts needed to be approved by the company before going live, they still contained false claims about the health and weight loss benefits of their 30-Day Detox Pack, which the company couldn’t back up with scientific evidence, including that it helps people:

  • Lose weight
  • Fight cancer
  • Treat or prevent the flu
  • Treat colds
  • Clear clogged arteries
  • Decrease or help migraines

The influencers involved in the scandal also received warning letters from the FTC reminding them to transparently disclose their material relationships with other brands and to not lie or make false, unsubstantiated statements about products.

This is not the first time the FTC sent Instagram influencers warning letters for their deceptive endorsement practices, and it won’t be the last.

As an influencer, it’s your responsibility not to spread false information or mislead and deceive your followers. When doing a brand deal, only make valid claims that can be verified by reliable proof.

Other Notable Cases

A few other recent cases from the FTC impact or may impact the Endorsement Guidelines and social media influencers, even though they don’t necessarily involve influencers, most notably:

  • Fashion Nova Inc.
  • Google and iHeartMedia

In 2022, the FTC sued fast-fashion clothing brand Fashion Nova for $4.2 million for suppressing negative user reviews (FTC). While this case did not directly involve influencers, it does prove that the FTC will not tolerate the misrepresentation of customer reviews or endorsements.

If you ever work with another brand, ensure whatever statements you release are true and honest.

Google and iHeartMedia were also sued by the FTC in an ongoing 2022 lawsuit alleging that they aired deceptive endorsements for Google’s Pixel 4 smartphone as much as 29,000 times across their more than 850 AM and FM radio stations.

The scripted ads were read by radio personalities and implied that they genuinely used and experienced the Pixel 4 phone, but the FTC claims the radio hosts never actually did.

This ongoing lawsuit could once again change how the FTC enforces their Endorsement Guidelines.

It could mean any commercial advertisement read by an influencer — in this case, popular radio personalities — must reflect the individual’s actual experiences with a product.

What Does The Future Look Like for Influencers?

Considering how the FTC influencer guidelines from 2022 evolved, you should expect the agency to continue to crack down on deceptive endorsements made by influencers across social media platforms and to start treating you more like an actual business in the future.

Let’s discuss each of these potential outcomes in greater detail.

More Influencer Accountability Enforced by the FTC

Since 2009, the FTC has been attempting to hold influencers accountable for their misleading brand deals, and they don’t have any plans to back down.

The 2017 case against CS:GOLotto proves that the FTC will hold influencers accountable for failing to comply with the Endorsement Guidelines.

Since then, the FTC has attempted to hold even more businesses accountable for deceptive acts like:

  • Influencers sharing unsubstantiated claims in Instagram posts
  • Hiding negative reviews lefts by consumers
  • Failing to communicate when a material relationship exists between a company and a regular consumer leaving reviews
  • Radio hosts reading ads for products they’ve never used

Eventually, the penalties for breaking certain guidelines and laws may hit the influencer as hard as they’ve been hitting companies like Teami, UrthBox, and others.

Treating Influencers Like a Business

Influencer marketing has quickly turned into one of the most popular forms of advertising, and at the rapid rate it’s growing, it wouldn’t surprise us if the FTC starts treating influencers with large outreaches as if they’re independent companies to hold them more financially responsible.

Many social media stars already establish themselves as businesses or LLCs. While some are considered nano or micro-influencers with fewer than 100,000 followers, others have millions of subscribers and generate an income well above six figures.

The global influencer marketing value is estimated to be $16.4 billion, with Instagram acting as the leading platform, according to Statista.

Sponsored posts are incredibly lucrative for both the influencer and the company, and right now, it’s a bit like a free market between influencers of all sizes and large brands.

But the FTC is watching and will keep sending warning letters to companies and the individuals involved in the deceptive practices.

It’s only a matter of time before significant fines fall on the lap of an influencer and not just the company providing the product.

FTC Influencer Guidelines FAQs

You’ve learned a lot about social media influencers, product endorsement, and the FTC, but here are even more frequently asked questions we get about the FTC influencer guidelines.

What do FTC guidelines say about influencers?

The FTC guidelines say that influencers must transparently make it known whenever a post or statement they make is in a material relationship with the owner of the endorsed product.

What qualifies you as an influencer?

You qualify as an influencer and must follow all relevant FTC guidelines if you work with brands to endorse products to an audience or a group of followers.

How do I report an influencer to the FTC?

To report influencer fraud to the FTC, visit https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/ or call the FTC’s consumer response center at 877-382-4357.

What is an FTC disclaimer?

An FTC affiliate disclaimer is a statement on your website informing users about your relationship with brands or companies that pay or compensate you in some way to endorse or sponsor their product.


Social media influencers have a broad outreach and, at times, undeniable power over what their followers choose to buy. The FTC is closely watching how this marketing relationship continues to develop and affect fair practices in the American economy.

It’s your responsibility as an influencer to always be honest with your followers about what brand deals you’re part of and to make it clear whenever you’re endorsing a sponsored product.

Remember, it’s not only the FTC regulations that impact online and social media influencers.

If you have a website that uses cookies or collects any user data, you might also fall under the jurisdiction of major data privacy laws.

Not all press is good press, especially if it results in losing the trust of your audience, and you don’t want to get caught lying to the people who support your posts and content the most.

Do the right thing and follow the FTC Endorsement Guidelines that impact influencers. Chances are high that the guidelines will only get stricter moving forward, and you don’t want to end up as the influencer used as the example.

Ali Talip Pınarbaşı, CIPP/E, & LLM
More about the author

Written by Ali Talip Pınarbaşı, CIPP/E, & LLM

Ali is a London-based Data Privacy Law Consultant with a Master of Laws Degree in EU Privacy law at King's College London. He has three years of experience in advising businesses on how to comply data protection laws. More about the author

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