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Avoid deceptive advertising on social media

"Native" ads are designed to fit right into a social media feed in a way that enhances the viewer's experience, rather than detracting from it. Unfortunately, some companies have gone too far in their efforts to disguise paid-for content as something organic.

That can land you in big trouble with the Federal Trade Commission. To avoid complaints and expensive litigation, here are the things you need to remember when you create ads that double as interesting or entertaining content for social media:

1. Make sure that your advertisements are clearly labeled as such.

Transparency is the key to avoiding problems with your marketing efforts. Make sure that your ads prominently display your company name and say something like:

  • Paid for by
  • Promoted by
  • Advertisement
  • Promotional Material

A company logo is an acceptable alternative to the company name, as long as it would be clear to the average viewer that what they are seeing is, in fact, an ad. That way you can't be accused of misleading consumers from the start.

2. Make sure that notifications are visible.

A few words and a company name or logo won't really give consumers notice if they can't see it. Make sure that you use fonts that are large enough to be read and colors in your print that sufficiently contrast with the background of the ad. If a written notice appears prior to longer-running content, like a video, make sure that it stays on the screen long enough for consumers to actually read it.

2. If you use influencers, make sure they disclose their affiliation.

One of the biggest ways you can get into trouble is through influencer marketing. It's okay to pay a YouTube personality or Instagram celebrity to try your products and give you a review, but they absolutely must disclose the fact that they're being paid to do so.

The important thing is that you make a reasonable effort at all times to let consumers know they're watching content that's been produced specifically for your brand as an advertisement. That allows them to make up their own mind about the value of what they see -- and keeps you away from governmental oversight and accusations of deceptive business practices.

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