WOMMA Releases Updated Social Media Marketing Disclosure Guide
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has updated its Social Media Marketing Disclosure Guide as part of an effort to advance ethical marketing.
Beginning in 2008, WOMMA started a deliberate process to create a document of best practices around disclosure and transparency in word of mouth and social media marketing. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission updated its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Before that, the last update was in 1980, before the birth of the Internet! The new guides reflect an entirely new media landscape.
As social media continues to play a powerful role in marketing and advertising, brands and consumers alike are challenging paradigms around ethics in online media. Transparency continues to be key.
In general, in online forums, video and photo sharing sites, social networks, and review sites, users should disclose when they’ve been sent samples for review or have been paid by a marketer with a clear, simple sentence. On microblogs, like Twitter, it’s best to use a short hashtag to denote sponsorship.
For example, a brand may send bloggers sample products to review or coupons for discounts. In these cases, consumers have a right to know if the content is being sponsored, and participants and marketers have a responsibility to be clear and upfront about these partnerships. These guidelines are important from an ethical perspective, as well as a regulatory one: the FTC now requires that all sponsored and promoted content is disclosed.
Topics Addressed in the Updated Guide:
- Clarification around responsibilities of various stakeholders (Advertisers, Bloggers, Agencies, Vendors, Influencers)
- Syndication of content across channels
- New platform challenges
- Additional guidance from the FTC
- Perspectives from industry groups
- Updated definitions and nomenclature
- “Advocate” replaces “Blogger”
- “Marketer” replaces “Advertiser”
- Expand scope to encompass new platforms, programs and challenges
- Define areas of concern (non-monetary incentives, promotions, etc.)
The Social Media Marketing Disclosure Guide was designed to be a “living document” and change as social media platforms change. As part of this charge, WOMMA reviews the document regularly, opening it up for feedback from the industry. The guidelines are designed to give both marketers and social media users clear, practical direction when engaging in brand marketing.
Although there was fine-tuning in the newest version, the spirit of the guide remains the same.
Reviewing Best Practices for Disclosure:
- Establish an organization-wide social media policy, playbook or guidelines that communicate and ensure proper disclosure.
- Regularly monitor for compliance.
- Include a “Disclosure and Relationships Statement” page to your website or blog to help establish trust and credibility with readers.
- For individual blog posts, social network status updates, video- and photo-sharing websites and podcasts, it’s best to include a clear sentence such as:
- “I received product/sample/information from company name”
- “Company name sent me product/sample/information.”
- Review blogs should include a similar sentence that spells out if the blogger was paid to review the product.
- For online discussion and review comments, disclosure can take the following forms:
- “I received product/sample/information from company name” “I was paid by company name.”
- “I am an employee [or representative] of company name.
- For microblogs, like Twitter, a short phrase or even a hashtag can be used, such as #spon, #paid, or #samp.
How has disclosure affected your organization? Share any thoughts, tips or tricks in the comments below or on Facebook.