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The FTC is taking action on influencers refusing to follow rules

(BUSINESS MARKETING) The FTC is tired of issuing warnings about influencer marketing and being ignored so now, they’re going straight to the source.

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The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) warns celebrities and brands for the last time about properly disclosing material connections. Well, maybe it’s not the last time.

This is not the first time the issue of shady social media deals has been brought up.

In March, the FTC sent letters asking that brands and their Instagram influencers follow the disclosure policies. In June, they sent warnings to the participating companies, reiterating the importance of disclosing paid relationships.

Now, on what seems like their last stitch effort, they are warning the influencers themselves of the seriousness of the situation.

The FTC has contacted 21 celebrities and reality stars including Naomi Campbell, Lindsay Lohan and Sofia Vergara among others to warn them about properly disclosing their relationships. Celebrities must disclose the nature of their relationships, especially when they are paid, within their posts. This does not mean burying the company name within a million hashtags, or simply thanking them for their generosity.

When a celebrity posts about their favorite new product that they can’t live without, it’s not so much of a coincidence as it is a marketing scheme, #moneymaking. With the growing power of social media, both companies and celebrities have taken advantage of the exposure it brings them. The relationship is equally beneficial, however as the FTC has noted, it is not completely altruistic.

It’s not rocket science.

When money is exchanged as a part of a trade of services, it must be disclosed. For some reason all of this becomes complicated when it comes to social media. In the social realm, businesses operate in a non-traditional way and thus have non-traditional methods of marketing. One of the most successful strategies has been using Influencers, or Instagram users with a significant following, to endorse their products.

Unlike a commercial you see on TV, the endorsement seems natural, almost a random moment that a celebrity shares some personal information. This includes when companies are tagged in a photo or thanked in a post.

So what are the real consequences? Warnings do not indicate action. Social media still has a lot of gray area when it comes to marketing. And it looks like the FTC still has a lot of warnings to issue.

Natalie is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and co-founded an Austin creative magazine called Almost Real Things. When she is not writing, she spends her time making art, teaching painting classes and confusing people. In addition to pursuing a writing career, Natalie plans on getting her MFA to become a Professor of Fine Art.

Business Marketing

Which social media platform will dominate for marketing in 2018?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Which of the many social media networks will rule as the top social network marketing platform in 2018?

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If you’re still Tweeting to market your business or product, you’re way behind the curve.

Most social media influencers think Instagram is where it’s at, according to new research from content marketing firm Hashoff. A survey of 414 influencers in the business-to-consumer market found 93 percent of influencers focused a majority of their marketing efforts on Instagram this year and another 82 percent expect that to carry over to 2018.

Facebook is the secondary point of focus, as 16.5 percent of surveyed influencers devoted most of their time to timelines in 2017. However, after that, efforts fall below 5 percent for other major social networks such as Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.

So why the fondness for Instagram? Most social media influencers (76 percent) said Instagram has the best tools for creators among all the major platforms. It supports pictures and videos, live video streams, encourages consumer interaction and don’t forget about all the editing tools, rainbow face filters aside.

Some survey respondents (13.7 percent) also said Youtube is the best tool for content creators. While it hasn’t been a top focus for influencers over the past couple of years, use is trending upward. For example, in 2017, only 3.2 percent of influencers said Youtube is their No. 1 social media platform for marketing, but in 2018, that percentage is expected to jump to 12.2 percent.

While social media marketing efforts will always vary based on company type, product and content creation bandwidth, if you are starting to plan for 2018, keep tabs on these statistics. They can be a good indication of where consumers are viewing content, and if you are just starting out, knowing where marketing efforts are most worthwhile can save you time, energy and money.

Overall, consumers continue to be attracted to creative, visual representations of products and services, so take some more photos and save your word-based Tweets for another time.

Just because you have 280 characters to market your business doesn’t mean you have to use them. Give the people what they want.

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Business Marketing

Find black-owned businesses to support via this app

(BUSINESS MARKETING) The volume of black-owned businesses is on the rise, and supporting the community has become even easier with this app.

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The U.S. Census Bureau reports that from 2002 to 2007, black owned businesses increased 60.5 percent. Today, it’s estimated that there are over 2.6 million black-owned businesses in the United States.

Black-owned businesses stabilize communities by providing jobs, paying taxes and keeping money in the community where they live. The black community has a buying power of over $1 trillion, but much of that money is spent outside of black communities.

The more money spent with black owned businesses, the more jobs are created; the more money is returned to the community; the more stable families become.

Mandy Bowman saw a need to support black businesses and entrepreneurs. In 2105, she created an app, Official Black Wall Street, the largest directory of black-owned businesses. The app is available in the AppStore and on GooglePlay.

Currently, it lists more than 1,400 verified businesses that are owned and operated by black entrepreneurs.

Consumers who use the app can get an alert when they’re near a black-owned business. The app lets you bookmark your favorite businesses. When the business updates or puts out a new offer, you can also get an alert.

As a black business owner, you have opportunities to advertise your business, and you can even message customers right through the app, another way to reach out to prospects. Promote sales, special offers and promo codes in the app.

It’s fairly simple to add your business. Create an account and enter your information. Consumers can even enter businesses that qualify. Although the app seems to be more for brick and mortar businesses, but online shopping opportunities are listed too.

We encourage black businesses to add a listing to the app and for all people to download the app and support the community.

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Business Marketing

TINA.org is helping the FTC crack down on Kardashian-esque influencers

(MARKETING NEWS) The Kardashians are just five of the seemingly endless amounts of influencers companies are using for marketing but TINA.org is over their tactics.

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A brand could find no better influencers than the Kardashians – the family who proved that you can get famous just for, well, being famous. Each Kardashian sister has an astronomical number of followers, making them obvious trendsetters.

That’s why brands pay the Kardashian sisters – Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie — tens of thousands of dollars a pop to post pictures of themselves on social media using their products.

Perhaps you find it hard to believe that the Kardashians stop by Popeye’s Chicken to grab a to-go meal before boarding their private jet. Regardless, the Kardashians, and the brands who pay them to pump their products, would prefer that you believe that these endorsements reflect the Kardashian’s actual preferences, rather than the paychecks they receive for posting them.

The Kardashians have been attempting to make their endorsements seem more “authentic” by totally disregarding Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules that require influencers to disclose when their posts are paid endorsements.

In August of 2016, Truth in Advertising (TINA.org) filed a complaint about the Kardashians to the FTC, saying that the (in)famous sisters had “failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose material connections to brands or the fact that the posts were paid ads, as required by federal law.”

After receiving a finger-wagging from the FTC, the Kardashian sisters corrected less than half of the posts, generally by adding #ad to the post. The remaining posts, according to a recent TINA.org follow-up investigation, either have not been edited at all, or contain “insufficient disclosures.”

For example, some posts now read #sp to indicated “sponsored” – as if anyone knows that reference. In another tactic that also got Warner Brothers and YouTube influencer PewDiePie in trouble with the FTC, the Kardashians are posting their disclosure information at the bottom of a long post so that users will only see it if they click “see more.”

The Kardashians have also been posting disclosures, but only days after the original post. Considering that the vast majority of viewers comment on or like posts within the first ten hours after it’s published, most of them will never see the disclosure when it’s tacked on days later.

Some of the “repeat offender” brands, who came up both in last year’s complaint and in the recent review, include Puma, Manuka Doctor, Jet Lux, Fit Tea, and Sugar Bear Hair. This time around, the Kardashians have also failed to disclose sponsorship on posts promoting Adidas, Lyft, Diff Eyewear, and Alexander Wang.

TINA.org found over 200 posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat where products are promoted without the Kardashians letting on that their raking in big bucks in exchange. The organization has notified the Kardashians, the brands they represent, and the FTC.

The FTC has recently been cracking down on deceptive influencer marketing, targeting not only the brands, but the influencers themselves.

In April, the FTC sent letters to 46 social media stars reminding them of their legal obligations to disclose, and followed up with 21 letters in September warning the influencers that they had until the end of the month to disclose sponsorships, or face legal consequences.

“The Kardashian/Jenner sisters are masterful marketers who are making millions of dollars from companies willing to turn a blind eye to the women’s misleading and deceptive social media marketing practices,” says TINA.org’s Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “It’s time the Kardashians were held accountable for their misdeeds.”

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