Social Media and the FTC

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has been governing online advertising on the web and email for years, but as of early March, 2013, the FTC includes governance for social media and mobile technology. How will this effect your employees?
FTC .com Disclosures
What?
I’m not kidding!
You will need to educate your staff.

1) Ask yourself the question – are you advertising your products or services in the social sphere?
If you’re just posting your latest chili cook-off picture, a statement about your personal political leanings, or that daily LOL your friends seem to love so much, you’re probably just fine to post normally. The difference is when you start to include a call to action where money is involved.

2) Simplified: If money changes hands, include an obvious disclosure.
Not-for profits – that means a link to your donation page needs a disclosure.
Real Estate agents – posting about a property you just listed – add the disclosure.
You get the idea.

3) Obvious means “clear and conspicuous.”

  • No scrolling
  • No white text on a white background – or poor contrast
  • Be sure your mobile users will see it (optimize with responsive design kids!)
  • Links to disclosures must be obvious and cannot be integral to to the product or service if you have to go elsewhere to read it. (imitations, health risks, fees)
  • Links must be adjacent to the claim to which they relate
  • Short links – like bit.ly might confuse people. Be sure the destination of the link is obvious in the link
  • Paid or compensated spokespeople must be designated clearly – #spon or FS isn’t going to cut it.

4) Employees – this is new!
If your employees are sharing/re-Tweeting your ad – the ad must continue to contain the disclosure. Likewise, if an employee posts something for you – they must disclose the relationship.

Samples:
This post below shows the obvious disclaimer “Ad” at the beginning of the tweet. This disclosure would carry through on any share or re-tweet. The shortened URL is a link to the content, and not another disclosure, so the short URL probably works.
Social media ad with desclaimer

This re-tweet below shows how the disclosure carries over from the original post. See the “Ad” at the beginning.
Employee Re-Tweet

The post below, by an employee, carries with it a disclosure showing the relationship (employer).
employee post

Here’s one showing a hidden disclosure. The original post contained the appropriate marker, but when the employee shared the content, the disclosure was lost.
post showing hidden disclosure

5) Be sure to read the 53 page update!
Give it to your attorney if they don’t already have  a copy.
FTC .com Disclosures
How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising (PDF)

International Questions: first, check to see if your location is a cooperating nation.

 

As always, Social Network Voice is here to help. Giddy up!

Brian Atkinson

Brian has extensive experience running digital departments and teams in non-profit and for-profit organizations, including marketing and communications, higher education, and information technology. Specialization in social media and frequent presenter at conferences and seminars on the strategic use of different communication styles to reach a new generation of constituents. And I have a lot of t-shirts.

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