The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released their newest .com disclosure guidelines, the first new release since the year 2000. It takes them a long, long time to update this document, and they never really say anything all that groundbreaking. The general message is that the same guidelines that apply to traditional advertising mediums apply to the net, so your affordable SEO company is safe. There is only one piece of really noticeable news that jumped out to people so far, and that pertains to Twitter.
Apparently, the FTC is sick of the paid, viral ads on Twitter. You see celebrities (or anyone with a lot of followers) mention products a lot, and it can be difficult to know what they actually like and what they’re being paid to endorse. The new rule puts an end to this, requiring Twitter users to be very clear about what is a paid or “sponsored” Tweet.
As an example of the changes, look at this sponsored Tweet the FTC gives as an example:
That link goes to the product page, and the followers of the account have no idea if this was a genuin success or a paid story. This kind of Tweet is now illegal. For a sponsored story to be allowed, it must contain two things: the statement indicating it’s an advertisement, and the realistic expectations of the product. The FTC took the same Tweet from above and applied these new rules:
The FTC understands that Tweets are only 140 characters long, so they allow shortcuts. A simple “Ad:” is enough to address it being an advertisement, and the “typical loss” is enough to set realistic expectations. That’s a legal paid Tweet.
There are additional rules, in case people try and circumvent these methods. You AREN’T allowed to send out a paid Tweet, and then follow up with the disclaimer and advertisement notice. It all must be in the same 140 characters. You also aren’t allowed to use the “#spon” tag, because the FTC has decided that it’s too confusing, not enough people understand that it means sponsored.
Keep in mind these new rules apply to any short-form digital marketing, Twitter is just the one it applies to most. On sites like Facebook (where you aren’t limited to a certain amount of characters) you can just include the advertisement disclaimer underneath the ad itself.
So keep these rules in mind going forward, and make sure you don’t get yourself in trouble by Tweeting the wrong way!
Check out the FTC document on .com disclosers here.