It’s hard to believe, but Instagram is only ten years old. In that time, the platform has become an incredible tool for businesses. If you’re using Instagram to market your business, just like with any other platform, you need to make sure you’re protecting the legal side of your business.
And, no, this article is not about intellectual property. We won’t be covering copyrights or trademarks. We won’t even be covering disclosure about sponsored content. (Those are articles for another day.)
Instead, this is all about what to consider when you are marketing products or services on Instagram.
Here are a few areas that you want to cover:
1. Use Caution When Sharing Testimonials
When we discuss online marketing, there is often talk of providing social proof. This may be quotes, testimonials, or case studies from people who have used your product or service.
If you weren’t aware, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which monitors truth in advertising, has very specific rules on testimonials from consumers.
When you highlight how someone has used your product or service, it’s viewed as representative of your business. Do you have any evidence to substantiate their experience, other than the person’s individual claims?
If you don’t, please don’t panic. The key is to disclose that the testimonial is the experience of one client and may vary.
Make sure you are disclosing that results may not be typical and could vary from person to person.
2. Add an Instagram Disclaimer
If you are anything like me, you have probably consulted Dr. Google once or twice to look up symptoms online. You’ve then seen the disclaimers that every site has, which (with far more legalese) essentially say, this is just information, not medical advice, go see your doctor.
When you’re working in a field where people seek your products or services for the advice that you offer, you need to ensure you have the appropriate disclaimers in place. For your website, a disclaimer will usually be a bit longer and have more detail and legal language.
But how does that translate to Instagram?
In my legal practice, I have the pleasure of working with many licensed professionals and coaches who market their business almost exclusively through Instagram.
Since you don’t have the space for the lengthy disclaimer that you may have on your website, my go-to recommendation is a more condensed version of your website disclaimer that you publish in your Stories.
If you are marketing your services on Instagram, we recommend that you save your disclaimer story as a highlight so you can reference it. Think of it as the most important points from the Website Disclaimer Template, but crafted for Instagram.
We’ve created a product, the Instagram Disclaimer Template, that has sample templates for some of the most common types of information that you may discuss on Instagram when marketing your products or services:
- Business growth and coaching
There’s also a template specifically for Registered Dietitians. The templates provide you with bullets that you can use, and from there, you can add your branding before publishing.
Get your Instagram Disclaimer here.
3. Don’t Make Claims That Aren’t True
In any type of marketing and advertising you do, which includes Instagram, you need to ensure that your content doesn’t mislead consumers. The FTC also monitors for false claims in advertisements.
When you’re talking about your products and services, make sure that you are not including any unsubstantiated claims.
Let’s look at some examples:
You’ll lose 15 pounds in a week just by drinking my smoothies.
This one probably seems pretty obvious. Unless you have a scientific study that can replicate these results for everyone, don’t make claims like this.
But this might also be applicable for more subtle claims:
If you implement my 5-step method for growing your email list, your revenue will double in the next quarter.
Since you can’t guarantee future performance or income, don’t include claims like this in your Instagram marketing.
4. Don’t Offer Advice in DMs
If you offer services where you work with clients, be careful when answering questions via DM. Try to avoid offering specific individualized advice to someone unless you have a client agreement with them that outlines the scope of your relationship and how they may use the information you give them. You don’t want to invite any type of liability due to a claim that they inappropriately relied on your advice.
If someone asks you a question that requires a specific answer, you can redirect them to more general information.
Example (which, while it is not a direct quote, is a great example of what slides into my DMs):
I have a client who hasn’t paid me and they are in breach of their contract, what should I do next?
My usual answer:
I’m so sorry to hear you are dealing with that. I can’t give you any specific legal advice, but I have a resource on late paying clients on the blog that might help.
Another answer might be:
I’m so sorry to hear you are dealing with that. I’m not able to give you advice on your specific situation without knowing more. Would you like to book a Strategy Session through my law firm?
Protect Your Business on Instagram
Instagram is an incredible took for marketing your business, especially for service providers. But, it’s key to make sure you are protecting yourself and your business.
If you’d like to ensure you’re covered, you can get the Instagram Disclaimer Template here. In this template you’ll find everything you need to set up a simple disclaimer on your account. Click here to get the details.