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social media influencer disclosure

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.
Consumer trust is important to all of us. 

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 much should you use for cannabis marketing budgets?

You can see the cannabis market changing daily and yet we haven’t even reached anywhere close to a zenith in cannabis purchases. It’s easy to be lulled into thinking that a growing market allows you to limit your marketing budget. Unfortunately, no. Despite the growing businesses, success in the cannabis industry is no sure thing.  So how can you take advantage of this growing market by really developing a foothold?

Establishing your brand and investing in marketing is going to be the difference between success and failure in the cannabis industry.

The cannabis industry is growing, but you need to establish your brand and foothold now to ensure you’re able to withstand the inevitable maturation and consolidation of the industry as regulations ease.

Fundamentally, the wine market is a great comparison to the cannabis industry because it’s an industry built around an agricultural product that’s highly regulated. There’s one glaring difference between the two: wine is a mature product, the market is educated about it and those who drink wine, know they like drinking wine. Drinking wine carries with it a certain life-style sophistication that some people aspire to, in other words, it’s a lifestyle product. Wine companies know investing in branding can make all the difference because the market is highly competitive and they generally budget 15%-20% of sales for marketing, this is a mature product with an established brands.  You’ll notice in the below infographic that recreational cannabis is larger than wine sales, but cannabis sales haven’t even remotely become mainstream or moved past the “stoner” lifestyle image. If you’re marketing to a “stoner” culture audience,  then perhaps you can develop a budget that’s on the low side, but if you see only 10% sales growth, you’ll know what to expect.

But if you’re hoping to capture some of the market that lives beyond the “stoner” audience, then you’re going to need a bigger budget and you’ll need to think like a lifestyle marketer. You can bet that the cannabis industry is going to get incredibly competitive as time goes on. Establishing your brand and investing in marketing is going to be the difference between success and failure in the cannabis industry.

What should my cannabis marketing budget be?

Setting cannabis marketing budgets is no easier (in fact, it may be harder) than doing so for other industries and this is because of the multiple variables impacting this decision-making. We present these stats to you as a guideline to determining your marketing spend vs. sales growth.

Basically, ask yourself how much you want to grow and allocate an according percentage of your budget to the growth. You can’t expect sales to grow 100% with a 10% marketing budget. It may happen, but the more likely scenario is that by the time you realize it isn’t going to happen, you’ll be boxed into a budget that doesn’t support the other expenditures you made in anticipation of growth.

Your mileage may vary and we’re happy to talk to you about your specific niche in the industry to help you develop a plan if you don’t have one at all. Keep in mind if you’re in launch mode, your PR and marketing budgets should be on the higher side, which pretty much applies to almost every cannabis brand today.

Something else to consider are the advertising limitations facing the cannabis industry. Depending on your actual product, you may not be able to buy ads on Facebook and Google. Does that mean you shouldn’t have an advertising budget? No, it actually means you’ll need to reallocate what would be an ad budget to something else, perhaps social media marketing and community building or content marketing or public relations.

Understand this: if you don’t feel comfortable allocating this kind of percentage to marketing, it doesn’t mean you should pack up your bags and quit-it just means your progress will go slower and you should have realistic expectations.

How Long Will It Take for Marketing Efforts to Deliver Results?

There are numerous variables in the answer to this question. Including your customer, your product and your previous efforts. Let me assure you, with the right budget, all things are possible.

Marketing, PR and branding efforts all work together and they tend to compound, especially in the early days. The more marketing you do, the earlier the ball will start rolling.  You can do yourself some favors by tracking metrics along the way so you know you’re hitting the right mix of marketing and that your marketing dollars are being optimized. Consistency is key in marketing and PR, so plan for consistency with bursts of activity around your strategic sales times.

All that to say this, the bigger your budget as a percentage of sales, the faster you’ll see sales grow, so if you’re in a hurry, budget accordingly.

cannabis marketing budgets stats

digital strategy branding and communications

Why do you need a digital strategy and what is it?

Since digital and social media are so accessible, it’s easy to think the results are just as accessible.
But the truth is, simply BEING on social media isn’t a strategy any more (if it ever was enough).
The digital world has brought us many, many advances, but it’s also brought a much more distracted and diluted market place.

The average person is exposed to over 5,000 messages a day.

Perhaps even more, especially if they are heavy social media users.
We used to tell brands that every person needed exposure to a message 7 times before it sunk in.
With today’s clutter and fast-paced media world, I put that number at closer to 12 today.

But having a digital marketing strategy saves you time and money and can even possibly reduce the number of exposures required.

A lot of people are reluctant to spend the time on a digital strategy thinking that the digital world is so fast moving that the minute you settle on a strategy, things will change.
Actually, it’s the opposite, the more thought out your marketing strategy, the more you’ll be able to roll with the punches.
Strategy allows you to be more fluid, not less.
And even if you DO change your strategy, at least you’ll do so with intent.

So what IS a digital strategy?
A good digital marketing strategy answers ALL you’re “Why’s”
If you can’t defend a piece of content, a post or an answer of how that benefits your company and it’s customers, then you don’t have a strategy.

A good digital strategy has three components:

Outstanding audience identification.

Start with the customer. Always.
Your digital audience may be a sub-segment of your larger audience or it may be your entire audience. It doesn’t matter, really.
What’s most important is that your extremely clear on your audience’s pain points, interests and emotional triggers
If you’re clear on who you’re speaking to, everything in your digital strategy will improve.
This will require some research, because no matter what you THINK you know about you’re customers, if you do some research on them, you’ll learn something about what resonates, what’s memorable and what matters to them.
The customer research will help you stay on message and consistent regardless of platform choices. You’ll know you’re on the right track because you have the research to back it up.

Product and Service Voice Clarity

How will you communicate with your community in the digital space?
Sometimes, the tone of voice in digital is different from the tone of voice in other mediums.
In fact, most of the time it is.
Once you know your audience, you can start to blend in their preferences with how they like to be communicated WITH along side the brand consistency you’re trying to accomplish. Voice consistency takes time and intention to develop and implement, but once you do it, you’ll be well on your way to executing a great digital strategy.

Digital Distinguishers

Chances are, you have some competition in the digital world.
Take a careful look at your competitors. What’s missing?
What can you do better than anyone else?
This takes brutal honesty, because you’ve got to be incredibly clear on who you are, who you want to be and how that meshes with how your community sees you and what you’re willing to do or not do.
The digital user is quick to point out the inauthentic, so be honest with yourself here, so you can be honest with your customers.
Your digital distinguishers should include your product and service differentiation while integrating with what makes your customers unique.
This is the place where it all comes together.

Once you’ve put all these pieces in place, a real digital marketing strategy can start to emerge.
Now you can start to identify content types, frequency, messaging and platforms that support your strategy.

With the inundation of messages today, the ONLY way to be in the digital space is to do so with a strategy, otherwise, you’re actually doing damage to your brand and you’re seriously missing out on opportunity, relationships and dollars.

Poodle Mafia Marketing Branding PR for Startups Movements and Personalities - Frank Sinatra Quote

Bet your starting to think about next year’s social media marketing plan. And as importantly, where will social media marketing fall into the mix? Will there be more? Less? The latest Advertising Trust report from Neilsen may offer some insights to help you in your planning process.

One of the strongest reasons to increase your social media is the the number one source of consumer trust and action isRecommendations from people I know”.  Trust and action are often hand in hand, and we can’t discount the value of trust, but its also hard to measure. However, what creates trust and what creates action can be different. For example, consumers report that humorous ads resonate most with them. We know that humor is a powerful tool, especially in social media. It might be more powerful than cats, dare I say (GASP). However, humor is rarely what makes people take ACTION.

The action taking piece is the one I’m always most interested in looking at more closely. And its really no surprise that word of mouth leads the pack. Ads on social networks have a lower trust score than they do action score. That’s actually true for several advertising types. With respect to social media, there are two key take aways:
1)  Use social to build trust and be very aware of what motivations exist for taking action.
2) The power of your tribe: when they share what you’ve got, its a more credible source. So be very aware of what and why people share on social. Tribes deeply impact our actions.

Now, the challenge with a report like this is that these results are all self-reported. The challenge with self-reporting is that people don’t always really know why they do what they do. I know, YOU always know why you do what you do. Or do you? Your motivations may not always be clear even to you. That’s why I started Captivation Motivation Training. 

Just remember, what type of message you use impacts trust and action. Decide what you’re trying to establish in every single post. Be purposeful in your social media practice and you’ll find that you can actually be more human.

 

 

 

PS: If you’d like to download the Neilsen Report for yourself: click here

This post originally appeared on Akamai Marketing