FTC Makes Changes in Social Media Guidelines

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social media guidelinesThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently updated the social media guidelines for brands. The recent changes in guidelines include more specific advice on social media marketing compliance, endorsements, testimonials and more. This is the first update to the FTC guidelines since 2010.  Brands can expect the FTC to pay more attention to social media marketing activity in the upcoming months.

A message from the FTC was given stating, “We have given guidance. You are all on notice.” Make sure to brush up on the new regulations before you send out that Tweet or Facebook post! If you are questioning whether or not to disclose [your relationship with a brand], be on the safe side and disclose all pertinent information..

The first change made by the Federal Trade Commission affects advertising. Advertising on social media is expected to be marked with words such as “Ad,” “Sponsored,” or “Promotion.” This change in guidelines is expected regardless of how much space you have for your post. In other words character limits and lack of space are not excuses.

When employees (or others being paid by a company) make social media endorsements they must disclose the relationship in each and every post they make. In other words, if you personally retweet or share a post made by your company, you need to disclose that the post you’re sharing is your client. For example, use terminology or messaging such as, “Hey followers! Check out what my client is doing…” or “My client (insert client’s name) is doing some great things! Check it out!”  Disclosures must be in posts and not just in bios or profiles, endorsements can only be made for products the user is actually familiar with.

Social media contests must be tagged with the word “contest” or “sweepstakes.” These tags will show disclosure for the post instead of just offering incentives without giving a reason why.

Video endorsements are also being targeted with the new rules and regulations. Multiple disclosures must be made within videos. The disclosures must be made throughout the video and be long enough for a viewer to completely read it. The disclosures must also be made verbally within the video somewhere. Basically, there cannot be any doubt about the relationship between you and your client.

Online reviews were targeted during the FTC crack down. Now, online reviewers must disclose their relationships with brands. For instance, if a blogger receives free product in exchange for writing about that product, they must include the relationship in the post. Companies can certainly continue to encourage reviews with free products or discounts, but cannot demand a positive review.

Essentially, a brand must define its relationship with endorsers clearly on social media. Make sure everyone on your team is aware of the changes and run audits so material can be reviewed. Leave no margin for error or you may regret it!

Here’s a Quick Review:

  • Disclose your relationship with brands in all posts. If they pay you, you are obligation to disclose this.
  • It doesn’t matter if you have enough space or not. You are expected to make enough space. The FTC doesn’t care about character count.
  • Disclosures have to be in posts. Having a disclosure in your bio or on a page doesn’t count.
  • Contests must be labeled as such. If you have a contest hashtag, make sure it includes the words contest or sweepstakes. Include this language on your images and graphics too.
  • Testimonial videos must include multiple oral and written disclosures.
  • If you receive free product in exchange for an online review, you must disclose this.

For more information and tips on social media, visit www.MarketingRELEVANCE.com or follow us on Twitter @mRELEVANCE.  If you’re worried about breaking rules or don’t want to deal with the hassle, let the experts handle it and call us at 770-383-3360.