There's No Such Thing as a Free Blog Post—Disclose It
If you provide free clothes or free video games in return for blog posts from customers, do you have to disclose it? The Federal Trade Commission says yes.
That’s according to a panel of attorneys who discussed social media strategies at the International Franchise Association’s Legal Symposium in early May.
“Over time the FTC has started to crack down on this a little bit more,” said Ellen Traupman Berge of the Venable law firm in Washington, D.C. She cited a case involving the women’s clothing retailer Ann Taylor, which gave women free clothes in exchange for their blog posts. “People reading the blogs would not know that the bloggers were not exactly unbiased,” Berge said..
In a similar case, Warner Bros. was told by the FTC to improve its disclosure, after giving free video games to people in exchange for their blog posts. The FTC issued warning letters to both companies, she said.
The takeaway: “If there is a material connection between your company and an endorser, disclose it. Disclosures of material connections must be clear and conspicuous,” she said, and don’t forget your franchisees. “Train your franchisees and affiliates and monitor what they’re doing on your behalf. Periodically search to make sure they’re following your instructions.”
Likewise, don’t forget about tweeters. “If there’s a material connection between your brand and the person tweeting,” disclose it, Berge said. “Even a sweepstakes entry is a thing of value that should be disclosed.”