As the creators of Muscle Milk® learned earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission is serious about maintaining a rigorous “truth-in-advertising” standard, even throughout social media, even among all types of “influencers.”
The FTC’s concern, broadly speaking, is that consumers know when someone is getting paid to praise or promote a product or business.
Compensation could be as seemingly inconsequential as free product or even a discount on a product. Regardless, any incentive to speak on behalf of an advertiser should be construed as payment that transforms “speech” into “commercial speech.”
Likewise, “influencers” are not just paid spokespersons. If you place another business’s URL on your own website in return for profit, e.g., a commission on sales arising from click-throughs, then you must inform consumers of such affiliate marketing. Even an employee acting independently and genuinely in love with your product or service has to be careful, both to disclose the employment relationship and to follow your social media guidelines.
If you have yet to develop in-house social media guidelines for your business, then you need to do so immediately. For a template, search for the guidelines created by the Gap, widely lauded as instructing employees on how blogging, tweeting, and posting can accurately reflect the company’s values and culture, drilling down on the kinds of social interactions the company seeks.
For additional help drafting your in-house social media policy, feel free to contact our office. I can design a policy specific to your company that addresses new technologies, fortifies protection of confidential material, protects your intellectual property, and remains cognizant of government requirements, including those from the FTC and the National Labor Relations Board.
David H. Faux