Significant Crackdown on Social Media Marking coming from FTC?

The FTC has recently made their first updates to their “What are People Asking” FAQ page in over five years.  These updates seem to be focused primarily on social media marketing.  If you use this type of marketing, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the updates so you can remain in compliance.

Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, DC.
Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, DC.

Many experts believe that this update could be serving as a ‘warning’ to marketers that they must get in compliance as they will be cracking down on violations in the near future.  Even though the FTC has long required companies to clearly identify any sponsored posts or paid advertisements from celebrities or other influential figures, many haven’t been doing it.  Even contests haven’t been clearly identified.  Both of these items have been updated in the FTC FAQ.

The marketing website has interviewed advertising attorney Allison Fitzpatrick about this new update, and they were able to get some very insightful information.  Fitzpatrick seems to believe that the FTC has updated the FAQ to ensure they have given proper guidance to marketers, and now they will begin to take violations much more seriously.

Hosting Contests or Sweepstakes?

If your brand holds any type of contest or sweepstakes through social media, a full disclosure must be made.  In addition to the disclosure, the rules must be very clearly laid out and linked to.  Using a hashtag such as #Contest or #sweepstakes is quickly becoming the standard.  Some companies try to just use a hashtag with the name of the contest or sweepstakes, but that is likely not going to be sufficient in the eyes of the FTC.  Whether your contest is large or small, it is a good idea to include a clear indication to keep your brand safe.

Facebook Likes?

Facebook likes are also going to be getting additional scrutiny from the FTC.  While it is impossible to disclose every time a celebrity or other important figure likes your page, the FTC is likely looking to crack down on any type of buying or selling of likes.  According to the interview of Fitzpatrick, “I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the next FTC actions is against fake likes.  It’s just so disingenuous what they do.  It’s so fraudulent and it really undermines the value of Facebook and the like button.”

Of course, there is no way to know for sure what the FTC will do in this area, but if you are in the business of buying or selling likes from people who have no actual interest in the brand or product they are liking, you may want to review the FTC regulations and your business practices.

Twitter Exemptions?  NOPE!

If you think you can run contests or have celebrity endorsements without a disclaimer on Twitter just because of the 140 character limitation, you’re wrong.  The FTC has been very clear that even on Twitter you must let people know when someone is being compensated for a post.  Using hashtags like #sponsored or #ad seems to be sufficient, at least for now.

Start Videos with Disclosure

Another thing the FTC will likely be looking at is video advertisements.  Some people who make videos, especially for video games and other digital content, like to ‘hide’ the disclosure away at the end of the video where many people won’t see it.  This is not acceptable.  Leading the video with a disclaimer is likely going to be required by the FTC, so keep this in mind when making any type of new video ads.

While some of this may seem like common sense, a surprising number of marketers are not in compliance at all.  With this latest update by the FTC, they can likely expect to see some enforcement steps taken in the near future.

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