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Social Media Influencers: When To Disclose

dalai lama transparency FTC native advertising

Because of continuing conversations with colleagues, brands, and influencers, I wanted to put some guidelines together for based on the FTC’s native advertising guidelines or influencer disclosure.

The FTC has shot some arrows over the bow in the last several years regarding native advertising disclosure, including calling out Warner Bros. and Lord and Taylor.

In both cases, the brand was held liable, not the influencers or content creators, strongly signaling that it’s the brand’s responsibility to ensure disclosure. But, the FTC native advertising guidelines make it clear: ” …the FTC has taken action against other parties who helped create deceptive advertising content – for example, ad agencies and operators of affiliate advertising networks.  Everyone who participates directly or indirectly in creating or presenting native ads should make sure that ads don’t mislead consumers about their commercial nature.”

Basically, no one is off the hook.

As if by magic, the FTC slapped 45 celebrity influencers with warning letters but didn’t forget to include their agents and the brands – in total 90 letters were issued about the FTC native advertising guidelines. It’s safe to say this isn’t going away. It’s always been best practice, but if you didn’t take it seriously before, it’s time to do so now.

My view is this: disclosure and transparency are good for all.

A brand should have no shame about showcasing its products and experiences in a real life scenario. Influencers shouldn’t have shame either, because working with a brand is a badge of honor. It’s a real compliment to a community that a brand values their eyeballs. If you’re ashamed of working with a particular brand or influencer, perhaps you’re working with the wrong partner.

Often times when I have conversations about disclosure with brands and influencers, I get questions like “what if…we do….”

Whether you are a brand or an influencer, if you’re asking questions about how to get around these guidelines, you’re on the wrong track. The guidelines make it very clear: make it obvious to an uneducated viewer that there is a material relationship (basically, anything which might effect the outcome of the endorsement). Influencers are often concerned about “selling out” their community. As an influencer, if you’re making a living from your community with native advertising and you’re not disclosing those relationships, you’re REALLY selling them out.

The Edelman Trust Barometer makes it clear: trust is in crisis. 

Establishing trust and adhering to guidelines is necessary for native advertising and influencer relations to continue. If trust is eroded the FTC guidelines won’t be at fault for the collapse of social native advertising.

So here are the guidelines based on reading hundreds of pages including all of the FTC links provided below.


When do social media influencers need to disclose a relationship with a brand?

Always.

 

Does this apply to me?

Yes.

 

Why does it matter?

The FTC says it does.

 

How do I disclose?

Make it “clear and conspicuous” and leave no doubt.


If you want to read through the FTC’s own words on this:

FTC Native Advertising Guideline Resources

.com Disclosures (2013)

Native Advertising: A Guide For Business

FTC Endorsement Guidelines: What People Are Asking (2015)

The Lord & Taylor Disclosure Case-FTC Blog (2015)

The Warner Bros Disclosure Case-FTC Blog (2015)

Enforcement Policy Statement On Deceptively Formatted Ads (2015)

 

How to Inspire Advocates and Influencers in Your Marketing

Poodle Mafia Marketing, Branding and PR for Personalities, Artists - Lady Gaga Quote

Marketing to influencers and advocates is all the rage, fueled in large part by social media.
But if you’ve ever developed a campaign with influencers and/or advocates, you know it can be filled with land mines.
Part of that is what inspires advocates and influencers is different.
In the my last post about Captivation Motivations, I shared with you the secret driver you’ve already heard of behind so many of our snap decisions and just BARELY touched on rewards and lures.
But they’re actually super closely related to what’s behind our fastest decisions to click, like, join, sign up or buy.
If you’ve played an app or computer game anytime in the last 7 years, you’ve probably noticed that these games are getting more and addictive (eh, em, Candy Crush anyone?).
It’s not just better graphics and faster speeds that are making these games addictive, it’s the deeper understanding of what really motivates people to continue playing and one of those is the power of rewards.

I’m going to get to the secret successful games use in a minute, but first, I want to share something else with you.
If you’re thinking of running a give away, a promotion or even thinking of starting an app, you want to keep reading.
If you’re using digital and social media to market your brand (and I know you are), you’ll want to keep reading.
What I’m about to share with you is particularly important and will ultimately, make or break your product or promotion and even marketing relationships with influencers and advocates.

 

You Scratch My Back…Carefully.

The last time someone bought you lunch, I bet your parting words were “It’s on me next time!”
You probably said it without asking where you might go or checking your bank account or even your calendar.
You just blurted it out.
The truth is, we’re hard wired to return favors.
Think about that for a minute.
We are deeply, sincerely uncomfortable when we think we need to return a favor. Next time you run a promotion on Facebook, do a test. Ask people to like the page BEFORE entering the contest and compare that to the results if you ask AFTER you’ve given them something, even if it’s just a chance to win.
Chances are you’ll find that if you ask AFTERwards, your conversion percentage goes way up AND those people remain engaged for longer.
This is because lures trigger our sense of reciprocity.

Want to hear an old school example of this?
Ever received mailing labels from a nonprofit that you didn’t ask for?
Did you know that sending mailing labels with a request for a donation has been shown to DOUBLE donations?
And guess what? The average donation is way, way more than the value of the labels.
Why? Because reciprocity is a compelling motivation and it comes with a quirk: what we give in exchange for what we received has very little to do with the financial value of either.
You give something, ANYTHING of some value without placing a value on it, the reciprocity trigger kicks in.
This is the idea behind successful content marketing.

 

Why You Should Never Pay Your Advocates

There’s a lot of discussion today about influencer and advocate marketing.
Lures and rewards are different.
Lures give without the expectation on the givers part of receiving anything in return. That triggers reciprocity by the receiver.
Rewards are given with the expectation of the receiver to get something in exchange, so no sense reciprocity is triggered.

Rewards (generally) kill reciprocity, but they can create habits if done correctly (like training your dog).
But it’s extremely difficult for marketers to get the consistency required to create a habit. Hell, it’s hard to get the consistency required to create a habit in dog, ask anyone who’s tried.
But marketers can more easily create reciprocity, which is an extremely powerful motivation that rewards do not trigger.
Here’s the rub though: reciprocity has some limitations too.
If you offered rewards to those who were already advocating for you to do the things they were already doing, you’d begin to see that their desire to support you moving forward would be slipping.
That’s because offering a reward on contingency (do this 3X/week and receive that reward) for something someone is ALREADY motivated to do, it decreases the desire.
And unless you understood this motivational fact, you’d probably be left scratching your head about what happened.
Tread lightly with your advocates because the way you show appreciation can actually decrease their motivation if you aren’t careful.

This isn’t to say rewards aren’t effective. They can be very effective.
“Share this and receive that…” you see it all the time. That’s a reward, not a lure.
Again, ask my dogs. They know if they do something, there’s a good chance there’s a treat in it for them. That’s a reward, they’ve been conditioned to expect it.
Rewards can be very powerful tools for increasing reach.
It creates increased reach by those who AREN’T your advocates and depending on your strategy, that can be very important.
Just don’t confuse people you give a reward to as an advocate.

Time: The Biggest Reciprocity Trigger

If you’re really interested in triggering reciprocity, then you should probably do two things:
1) get to know your customer really well
2) think beyond monetary lures (discounts, coupons, even product give-aways).

The reasons for this are two-fold:
Our 90% of the brain (the oldest, largest and most primitive part of our brain) inherently knows that time is more valuable than items.
We inherently value experiences (millennials especially) more than items, so although the default is often a coupon or discount, experiences are more highly valued.
Receiving an experience from a product or brand increases reciprocity. So if you use an experience as a reward, you can trigger reciprocity.
But to offer an experience that is highly valued, you really have to know your customer. What YOU think your customer values maybe completely different than what they actually value.
In the last post, we talked about information seeking as a dopamine trigger, but it can also be a reward. So can mastery – this is the essence of gamification. Becoming good at something is it’s own reward and the longer we spend on achieving that reward, the more we value it.
Again, what your customers value may be something else all together: inclusion in a tribe, recognition or status.
All these things can be valuable rewards AND lures for brands.

The other thing to understand is that placing a distinct financial value on a lure (or a reward) kinks up the perceived value.
Let me give you an example:
If I invited you to dinner at my house for a homemade dinner that was wonderful (of course it would be FABULOUS), but then I spent all night talking about how much I spent on buying the ingredients of the dinner, two things would happen. 1) you would view the dinner as a sum of parts rather than it’s whole value of time, effort and community and 2) you probably wouldn’t feel a sense of reciprocity at all, no matter how fabulous the dinner was.
Don’t force your influencers OR your advocates to view your rewards or lures as a sum of parts by involving money too heavily; it kills goodwill AND reciprocity.
If you’re going to use rewards or lures, remember, make it something the customer values and think about how to make more valuable than money.

Here’s the bottom line: use rewards for influencers and lures for advocates.

Can you think of a time when a marketing strategy with lures or rewards turned you off? Share them with me here or in social media, it’s a fascinating discussion I love hearing about.

 

 

About the Captivation Motivations:

The Captivation Motivations are all built around what I call our “other 90%” of our brain. The part of our brain that is the oldest and most developed part of our brain.

I didn’t make up the Captivation Motivations, I’ve simply been studying them and their effects for the last four years. I’ve been testing them in my strategies and tactics, reading and writing about them.
Simply put, these motivations are not some flash-in-the-pan-do-whats-trendy-now strategy, these are strategies which trigger reactions from the oldest part of our brain.  Over the last few years, more and more has been understood about these motivations. But one thing is clear: despite the fact that these motivations developed in the earliest days of humanity’s survival of the fittest experiences, these motivations are very much alive and well today. What triggers them in the modern world is just different than what triggered them in our earliest evolutionary days.