Key Marketing Takeaways From New FTC Social Media FAQs and Guidelines

The good news is that, thus far, social media marketing campaigns have rarely been an FTC target. Plus, since there is so little precedent in these matters, it can be a little slippery when the FTC does get involved. In fact, the latter factor is one of the reasons why Cole Haan ended up with little more than a wet noodle slap (well, and a little scathing press…) when they were in potential violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

Even so, the FTC is upping their game when it comes to endorsements, as their latest updates can attest.

The FTC Has Updated Its FAQ Page in Regards to Endorsements

The FTC updated its FAQ page for the first time in half a decade, emphasizing their concern in regards to social media’s involvement in endorsements, promotions and incentives. This update is a signal to all social media marketers that they are being watched.

As Martin Beck put it, on, “The FTC’s basic message — that material relationships between brand and endorser on social media must be “clearly and conspicuously” disclosed — hasn’t changed. But FTC is now getting more specific with detailed guidance about social media issues that weren’t on the agency’s radar five years ago.”

Here are 5 of the key takeaways we feel you should make note of in lieu of the FTC’s recent updates:

  1. Social media endorsements of a contest/sweepstake require disclosure. You aren’t the only ones who need to disclose your contest and sweepstakes rules. If a social media posting is required as part of a contest, sweepstakes or incentive, the users must make this disclosure as well. This was the crux of the issue with the aforementioned Cole Haan incident since contest entries were done using Pinterest boards. Thus, it’s your responsibility to monitor entries and inform the users if the posting isn’t clearly disclosing it is part of a contest. Obviously, Cole Haan’s $1000 sweepstakes bears more weight than, say, your $5 off coupon….but the FTC may not always make that distinction since clear lines are always easier to enforce than blurry ones. Legal reps say you should disclose, disclose, disclose – – period.
  2. Paid influencers should always disclose. Even when Tweeting or using another short-but-sweet social media platform, any paid influencer should disclose their relationship with the company. The only exceptions are when this relationship isn’t blatantly obvious and part of pop culture – like Nike’s Air Jordans, for example. If there is any doubt at all, your well-known paid spokesperson should err on the side of caution or you can be in trouble too.
  3. Don’t pay for or incentive-ize “Likes”. Those Facebook likes are tricky. It’s hard to tell how much they really matter anymore when it comes to a person choosing a product or service. What is true is that since there isn’t a way to disclose that a particular “Like” was incenti-vized, odds are the FTC is going to frown more heavily on this practice. Now that Facebook shut down its “Like Gates,” Fake “Likes” are also under the gun because they flat-out undermine the value of Facebook and the power of the “Like”.
  4. Twitter’s limited characters is no excuse. Just because you only have 140-characters for that Tweet doesn’t mean you’re exempt from disclosing. As the FTC states, “The words ‘Sponsored’ and ‘Promotion’ use only 9 characters. ‘Paid ad’ only uses 7 characters. Starting a tweet with ‘Ad:’ or ‘#ad’ – which takes only 3 characters – would likely be effective.” Start using those 3-9 characters wisely so you don’t get in trouble.
  5. Include disclaimers in your videos. Many sponsored video ads sort of scoot around this one by adding the written disclaimer to a video’s detail page. This isn’t enough for the FTC. They want a verbal disclaimer to be stated at the beginning of the video (or scrolled across the bottom). If it’s a long-format video, this disclaimer should appear more that once.

What do you think about the FTC’s new and more stringent guidelines? Are you a supporter? Do you think they’re being extreme? Let the Kaufer DMC team in on your opinion using our comment box below.

Written by David Kaufer

David Kaufer is Founding Partner and Chief Dynamic Office in Kaufer DMC. He’s also a huge Oregon Ducks & Microbrew nut, Dad of awesome 9-year-old twin boys, husband, and big Sustainability and Autism advocate.

Published June 30, 2015 by David Kaufer.
Categories: Social Media