The Word of Mouth Marketing Association is seeking comment on its updated Social Media Marketing Disclosure Guide before forwarding a final version to the Federal Trade Commission. The guide is meant to help businesses and bloggers comply with the FTC's Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
The update, still in draft form, suggests marketers establish an in-house media policy so everyone -- advocates, agencies, partners, networks and vendors -- knows what the required disclosures entail in order to prevent false or misleading claims.
What's more, bloggers and other influencers -- would need to make sure their relationship with a marketer is publicly disclosed when making statements, reviews or endorsements about that marketer’s product or service.
The proposed policy also recommends prominent placement of disclosures where consumers can readily access the content -- not buried deep in the content in a tiny point size -- and must be clearly stated.
The intent of the FTC’s guidelines on endorsements and testimonials in advertising is to ensure that consumers know who’s behind the marketing messages they receive online -- especially when such messages influence their purchasing decisions. The FTC requires both marketers (the advertisers) and advocates (those touting the product) to disclose any connections they may have among themselves. And that includes compensation in the form of money, gifts, loaner products, privileges, discounts and other considerations.
The update also extends its guidance beyond the usual social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to a variety of other outlets, including:
- video-sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo
- photo-sharing websites such as Flickr, Picasa and Pinterest
- curated-content service providers such as Storify.com, Paper.li and Scoop.it
- sponsored content
- affiliate networks
- referral networks
Related: BlogFrog and the Power of Moms
Corrections & Amplifications: An earlier version of this post misstated where comments on the draft should be directed. They can be posted to this Word of Mouth blog page.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.