Disclosure Guidelines In a Nutshell

by | Jul 14, 2013 | Content Marketing, Social Media | 0 comments

Guest Post By Ruth Wagner |  VP, Sales | CMP.LY

If you missed the Federal Trade Commission’s announcement in March of 2013 regarding clear and conspicuous disclosure, here’s what you need to know in a nutshell: you need to be transparent.

If you’re paid or have a material connection to the brand that you are shilling for, you need to make it very clear to your audience. Basically, if grandma wouldn’t understand that you were compensated in some way, you need to disclose.

The FTC .Com Disclosures guidelines address the evolution of digital, social and mobile platforms – on which consumers receive their messaging – and how brands and their endorsers can best disclose.

While the overall requirements of disclosure haven’t changed, the most important update and take-away for those working in social media is that endorsements and disclosures must be made in all media – that includes short-form social channels such as Twitter and Instagram.

Of significance, the guidelines explain the FTC’s position on where and how disclosures need to be made:

  • Proximity: Yes, even in the space-constrained ad or promotion, your disclosure must be in close proximity to the statement or endorsement. An endorsement in one tweet followed by a disclosure in the second tweet is not enough.
  • Prominence: Disclosures must be prominent and viewable on any device and not buried in the web page. So if you’re including your disclosure in 6pt type at the end of your blog, it will not cut it. Size and placement matters!
  • Multimedia Messages: Disclosures are also required for audio or video claims and endorsements need to be clear and conspicuous to the messaging. Disclosures must be clear in video clips; fleeting text is not sufficient.

Here are a few questions regarding when a blogger needs to disclose.

Q1) If you are invited to an event and given gifts (even gift cards) with no obligation to write a post…and you do a post anyway…do you disclose the gifts? 

A1) Yes, you need to disclose the nature of the gift or event.

Q2) Also, for events like the one I went to, with about 150 other social types, do we disclose the dinner was paid for? How about giveaways – it’s over $25 right? 

A2) There are no price restrictions – if you were given gifts or incented in some way to endorse, you have to disclose.

Q3) A few of my friends have a promotional agreement with a jewelry company who told them to add #ad in front of every tweet and Instagram post – is that ok?

A3) The FTC made it clear that all disclosures must be in language that is understandable to the reader, which means that the use of #spon or #spons may not be clear to all. The FTC suggests using #ad, “AD” or “Sponsored” in tweets or posts.

Hyperlinks that are in “plain language” to the reader are acceptable, examples: paid-po.stsponsored-po.stdisclosur.es. These links are clear and conspicuous and provide more context to the nature of the endorsement and connection to the brand. As a disclosure, these are offered by my company CMP.LY and are free to any blogger for use. You can see my disclosure here as an example: employee-po.st/6SeMbS.

What benefits can brands and bloggers get from disclosure – besides being in FTC compliance?

This is an obvious conclusion – trust and respect from your consumers. The FTC has made it very clear that it is the brand or agency’s responsibility to insure disclosures are made and monitored for omission, but the responsibility also lands on the blogger to be transparent. Don’t forget about the court of public opinion – consumers are quick to call out a lack of transparency, which can lead to a PR nightmare and open the door to an FTC investigation.

Where can bloggers go to get a disclosure guide and be safe within the FTC guidelines?

You can find more information at:

http://www.ftc.gov/os/2013/03/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf

DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney. The information provided herein is not legal advice and is only based on my own experiences as a marketer. None of the above should be considered a substitute for you consulting your own legal counsel who will guide you and your company (or blog) in how to manage disclosures and endorsements.

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About CMP.LY

CMP.LY is a leading provider of social media measurement, management and monitoring solutions. CMP.LY empowers businesses and individuals alike to take control of their social media through a range of proprietary products that enable deeper insight into and stronger oversight of social initiatives.

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