Earlier this month a rather lengthy report from MarketingLand.com listed a bunch of information from the FTC’s website which hadn’t been updated to that point since 2010. Originally this stated that material relationships between brand and endorser on social media must be “clearly and conspicuously” disclosed, but now “the FTC is now getting more specific with detailed guidance about social media issues that weren’t on the agency’s radar five years ago.”

So what specifically is on notice?

  • Contests and Sweepstakes: Basically, a contest that is sponsored on any network needs to be widely known that it is. The responsibility for that disclosure falls on the contest sponsor.
  • Endorsements, and Twitter: Any and all endorsements, paid or otherwise, need to have some sort of identifier. Even if someone wasn’t paid to say something, the relationship needs to be well known. According to MarketingLand, something as simple as #ad would suffice. The fact that a Tweet is only 140 characters doesn’t mean it is except from the need to disclose.
  • Facebook likes: Apparently the FTC is planning to deal with fake likes, though the specifics of the “how” there weren’t revealed. I hope they come up with something, because they hurt everyone.
  • YouTube: If a video is sponsored, it needs to be stated at the beginning and throughout the video. It’s not enough to have it written in the “about” section of the video.

Rules like this are important, and when they’re broken, the FTC has to act. One of the largest, most rampant problems in marketing (speaking as a former marketer) is a staggering lack of knowledge of exactly how to market. Granted,  much of this comes from giving life-long sales reps marketing roles, but it doesn’t excuse their blatant lack of understanding and rule-trampling. Breaking these rules has to have some sort of ramification, or nothing will change and marketers (even the real ones who are great at their jobs) will continue to be treated like con artists.

The entire piece from MarketingLand is really good, so please head over there for a better breakdown of the new FTC rules.