by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded
The Federal Trade Commission announced today a new guideline affecting bloggers and marketers. It states that bloggers must disclose when they received compensation, such as freebies or cash, from a company when they blog about their products or services. Bloggers are now legally seen as “endorsers” and could be fined up to $11,000 per post if they don’t fully disclose their association with the companies or products they are writing about. This is from the FTC release:
“The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”
I don’t see anything wrong with the guideline. As a long time marketer, it’s nothing new to me. It is no different than having to put “Advertisement” on top of pages in a magazine that a company sponsors or has written to read and look like an article in the publication. It’s also similar to TV spots and outdoor boards that must state who has paid for the space or time. Blogging is just another communications media outlet along with Twitter, facebook, and other social media. From a bloggers point of view, personally, it shouldn’t change what you do. If credibility is supreme in the social media world, bloggers should disclose why they are writing anyway.
One of the things I find disturbing is that too many believe that “if it’s on the web, it’s true” just as people used to believe that if it’s in the newspaper, it’s true. It’s too easy to be anonymous on the web. This gives people false courage to be as outrageous and extreme without any retribution or consequences. To me, that’s wrong. There have been several stories where companies are falsely accused for an act or deed that goes viral. This forces businesses to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to clear their name for something they did not do. In the end, there is rarely a recourse the business can take against their accuser, let alone even identify them.
I believe that bloggers, tweeters, and all social media contributors should be accountable for what they write. I know as a marketer, we and our clients are responsible for the information we put out in all forms of marketing and advertising. The social media should be no different. We have to publicly identify who we are. Social media needs the same standards.