The Right Way to Use Social Influencers

Important FTC rules to follow

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued updated guidance for businesses that use “influencers” in their social-media posts, after settling charges for the first time, in September, against two individual social-media influencers prominent in the gaming industry.

Working with social-media influencers can be a very positive and successful marketing tool for retailers. For instance, you might work with local dance celebs or vendors with large social-media or real-life followings who can influence their followers’ purchases at your store. But the FTC wants to be sure that customers understand clearly the “material connection”—a business or family relationship or payment or free gifts for their endorsement—between an influencer and a business, or between an endorser and any promoted product.

“Consumers need to know when social-media influencers are being paid or have any other material connection to the brands endorsed in their post,” said acting FTC chairman Maureen Ohlhausen. “Such connections must be clearly disclosed so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions.”

Before the settlement, the FTC sent out educational letters to marketers and influencers on Instagram explaining how this material connection should be disclosed “clearly and conspicuously.” Now the FTC has updated its Endorsement Guide to reflect the new advice. Here are some of the main points:

  • Don’t assume followers know about all your brand relationships.
  • Don’t use ambiguous disclosures like “Thanks [Brand],” #collab, #sp, #spon, or #ambassador.
  • Don’t bury disclosures in a string of hashtags. Readers can easily skip over them.
  • Don’t rely on disclosures that people will see only if they click “more.” The FTC points out that consumers viewing Instagram posts on mobile devices typically see only the first three lines of a longer post unless they click “more,” which many may not do. When making endorsements on Instagram, businesses should disclose any material connection above the “more” button.
  • On image-only platforms like Snapchat, superimpose disclosures over the images.
  • Ensure any sponsorship disclosure is hard to miss.
  • Don’t assume disclosures built into social-media platforms are sufficient.

For more information, go to: ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking#SocialNetworkingSites.

If You Need to Sharpen Your Business Skills

Try this business workshop locator.

Did you know the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a search tool for finding local seminars and workshops on small-business topics? Whether you’ve just opened your store or are a veteran retailer, being a successful storeowner means being a lifelong learner—it’s keeping up with tax-law changes, learning a new POS system or sharpening your social-media marketing skills. Attending an in-person workshop can be a great way to pick up new knowledge while networking with experts and other business owners at the same time. Here’s a sampling of what the SBA and its partners, including SCORE, were offering this September:

  • in Missouri, a three-hour workshop on how to read and interpret financial documents, calculate ratios and “use that information to drive business decisions”
  • in Wisconsin, a two-hour session on negotiating your commercial lease
  • in Nebraska, a hands-on Quickbooks seminar
  • in New York, a workshop on setting prices
  • in Georgia, a business-planning boot camp

Other topics covered in the past: HR101, hiring practices, state taxes and an InnovatHer workshop series.

You can do your own search for events at sba.gov/tools/events. The search tool lets you refine your query by zip code, date range and how far you’re willing to travel. The search results also include business webinars that you can participate in from anywhere.

 

Tune Up Your Sales With Music

Study shows how consumers react to music in stores.

Shoppers seek out brick-and-mortars for “the atmosphere and experience,” according to The State of Brick and Mortar: 2017. Being in the right mood is what encourages these shoppers to relax, linger and purchase. And music is one thing that lifts that mood, the survey found.

Music makes the shopping experience in a brick-and-mortar store more enjoyable, say 84 percent of the consumers surveyed by Mood Media. If shoppers like the music they “feel like it’s a brand they can relate and connect to.” Even waiting in line, a major frustration for the consumers surveyed, is less dull if music is being played; it makes them feel more relaxed. Young shoppers especially like music, making it more likely they’ll recommend your store to friends.

So check into licensed sources of music (Cloud Cover Music, at cloudcovermusic.com/in-store-business-music, is just one example, offering programs starting at $18/month)—and get feedback on social media about what your customers like to hear most.

 

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