Social Media Disclosure Rules Apply Even in Small Communities

FTC Protecting America's ConsumersSmall communities are great for mutual support. Sometimes we relax things though that could actually support and protect us. FTC Blogger Rules are just such a case.

Here on Maui, we love and support each other so much, we call it one big ʻohana – that means family. Maui is also very techy and entrepreneurial – we have leaders in green tech, really hip venture folks, and the food? Why even Oprah has just taken out papers to start organic farming here! But before her, we have many organic farms, our favorite home delivery of locally sourced food from Kula Fields, and the most delicious (for all of the senses) outdoor pop-up dinners hosted by Kupu Maui!

The FTC blogger guidelines don’t get invited to the party on many occasions, so here is a quick reminder about the federal law and why I think it is GOOD thing to disclose!

Read the full federal requirements for disclosing compensation here.

Read a terrific summary from Edelman Digital on the practical application here.

Edelman learned the hard way early on: Their Walmarting Across America earned them a spot in the Fake Blog listing on Wikipedia. To their credit, they have become leaders in creating open, transparent best practices between bloggers and brands.

As someone who has hired bloggers for my client the Lānaʻi Visitors Bureau, I insisted the writers disclose their free travel and per diem. There are so many benefits to this, beyond the fact that it is required by law:

  • I provide a custom graphic – another way to visually get the client’s brand out there.
  • I provide a custom link – so I can track activity from the blog posts, tweets, etc.
  • It gives the bloggers support and cover – it protects my team! It goes hand in hand with their contract which also states they have full editorial freedom to write whatever they want. I do not edit or restrict their reviews in any way.
  • It informs the readers, that yes, the writer did get free stuff – keep that in mind as you read the review.

If you have a great brand, transparency is your best friend. Bloggers do have influence and reach – that is why you want them on your team. And bloggers and social sharers, you have a responsibility to disclose when you receive something for free. On Twitter, I often use #client when I am actively promoting a client’s message. My partner Shane also suggests the very simple #fcftc, “For consideration, via the FTC.” I hope you will join me in raising the professional standards of how we support each other locally, keeping in mind that our voices are being heard globally!

If you are hiring a social media team: Be sure to give them specific goals, tell them who and what to disclose as the client so you are in control of that message, and interact with the team online – don’t leave it all up to the bloggers!

If you are a social media messenger: Be sure to ask your client for the campaign goals so you can be as effective as possible, insist on disclosing to protect your brand and your blog, and above all remember to include your audience in the fully transparent conversation!

Related: Tweeting for Free?

I have been writing about this since 2008. Just search this blog for “FTC” to read more of the history and best practices! Please do me a favor too: share this with your colleagues so I can close this topic by the end of 2012!