The Federal Trade Commission recently revised its online advertising disclosure rules to take into account evolutions in mobile and social media marketing. These guidelines protect the public from deceptive online promotional content. No matter how useful your content may be, if you’ve paid for its inclusion in users’ feeds, you have to disclose that information.
The updates were the first issued since the document’s inception in 2000. The FTC writes, “Like the original guidance, the updated Dot Com Disclosures calls on advertisers to avoid using hyperlinks for disclosures that involve product cost or certain health and safety issues. The new guidelines also call for labeling hyperlinks as specifically as possible, and they caution advertisers to consider how their hyperlinks will function on various programs and devices.”
While the FTC regulations speak to the paid aspect of social media marketing, brands with active Twitter presences should familiarize themselves with these rules to avoid any potential backlash from followers. The FTC seems to focus on social media content that deceives audiences with unidentified spokespeople, campaigns touch on immoral actions that could ultimately push new and existing customers away. Understandably, with celebrities reportedly making upwards of $10,000 per promotional Tweet, shady online advertising warrants the FTC’s sanctions.
Social media marketing can be executed effectively by publishing educational branded content that speaks to brands’ expertise beyond the items and products they sell. Of course, there will always be a need for straightforward promotional content, but maybe not via networks like Twitter. Social media sites build online communities for consumers to enjoy, and custom content can guide viewers to sales-y media, but only on customers’ terms. Keep social media marketing playful and lighthearted to retain followers’ attention, and sell them products and services once they’re further along the sales cycle.