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FTC plans to crack down on forms of social media marketing

2404635465_caab54a0e6_m The Federal Trade Commission is considering regulating certain forms of word-of-mouth and social media marketing: specifically, certain claims made on blogs, forums and social networks.

Here is an excerpt from AdAge setting up the situation:

As part of its review of its advertising guidelines, the FTC is proposing that word-of-mouth marketers and bloggers, as well as people on social-media sites such as Facebook, be held liable for any false statements they make about a product they're promoting, along with the product's marketer. This could present a significant issue for marketers, including the likes of Microsoft, Ford and Pepsi, who spend billions on word-of-mouth and social media. PQ Media projects that marketers will spend $3.7 billion on word-of-mouth marketing in 2011.

This will definitely have an impact on marketers that send products to influential bloggers/social media users for review, which is currently a common practice.

As a marketer and consultant in the social media space, I'm not too worried about guidelines or regulations, because I've always imposed my own set of rules and best practices from the start. They've worked well for my business and my clients. The rules go something like this:
  • If you send a product to a blogger for review, encourage them to post their candid thoughts. Don't push for a positive review.
  • Encourage the blogger to disclose within the post that you sent them the product.  
  • If you participate in any sort of pay-per-post activity (i.e. paying the blogger for a review), be 100 percent transparent about this fact. Chris Brogan wrote an excellent post about the issue, and advertising and trust in general.
If you follow these simple guidelines, you'll steer clear of any murky gray areas. I'm not sure what shape the FTC guidelines are going to take, or if they're even necessary. I'd like to think that we can govern ourselves online, but as we all know, sometimes sleazy practices can get through the cracks.

So, what are your thoughts on the FTC's announcement?

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Comments

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Sara

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Wouldn't that be like a violation of the First Amendment? How can they interfere with word-of-mouth advertising. Next they will start forbidding video advertising to sites like http://www.adwido.com

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