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10/08/09
FTC and Social Media POV
Filed under: General
Posted by: Stephen Kruger @ 4:17 pm

Since the inception of Interactive Buzz, LLC in 2007, we have always supported the ethics standards of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  Over the past two years, the watchdog of consumer interests, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been working with Word-of-Mouth Marketing industry leaders to formulate a strategy addressing the difference between Traditional Media that states and promotes a position of the brand, to Social Media that promotes a conversation with consumers about the brand.

The FTC has made it clear that the key to current and future advertising must support full disclosure and transparency by brands, agencies, and social media activators (bloggers, celebrities, agents, ambassadors) who receive any form of consideration, compensation, products, samples, or services from the brand, either directly or indirectly and presents an endorsement of the brand.

The FTC Guide puts teeth into the WOMMA ethics code.  FTC quoted WOMMA on twelve points throughout the 81 page document, FTC Guidelines .  At this time the emphasis is on enforcement by exception, rather than proactive enforcement.  To clarify, it is nearly impossible for the FTC to proactively monitor and manage the millions of posts being conducted throughout all social media channels.  That said, it is imperative to understand that the arm of the FTC reaches far beyond the doors of Washington, D.C.  Enforcement will come from other sources bringing attention to those in defiance.  Sources, such as, local consumer affairs organizations (e.g., BBB), plaintiff lawyers representing class action suits, state attorney generals, individual consumers filing complaints of being wronged will likely avail themselves of the new code.

For those willing to adhere to this newest set of codes directly impacting Social Media and Web 2.0, life should be fine.  In supporting transparency, brands should state their position clearly, agencies should reinforce brand messaging that includes the caveat of disclosure and transparency, and social media activators should carry that message forward in a reasonable fashion across the various channels.

Significant, is the strong recommendation that all stakeholders of Social Media employ best practices for conducting Word-of-Mouth Marketing and Outreach.  These best practices should include processes and procedures stating how transparency to the brand should be handled when conducting posts online.  There should also be a process in place to monitor that these posts are, in fact, being conducted in accordance with the FTC Guides.  Periodic checking, screen shots and other methods should be employed to assure consistency of message and compliance.

A number of other areas are touched on within the new FTC Guides, including, celebrity endorsements, Fortunately, Interactive Buzz, LLC. does manage each and every Social Media Outreach campaign in accordance with WOMMA ethics, and now, the FTC Guides.  Transparency, honest identity has been our hallmark since the beginning.  Our approach is supported by our proprietary and exclusive campaign management engine called, Buzzing OnlineTM.

For more information, please contact Interactive Buzz, LLC.

Stephen Kruger (skruger@interactivebuzz.com) is CEO and Founder of Interactive Buzz, LLC, an experienced Social Media company delivering high performance results for the comprehensive activation of Social Media strategies.

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