If your American social media campaign involved either paying bloggers to write about your products or events or you simply handed out free products to bloggers to review then you’ll now be in breach of today’s update from the Federal Trade Commission.
The old guide – last updated in 1980 – asked only that a reviewer made it clear when their experience of a product of service wasn’t likely to match the normal experience. If someone was reviewing a laptop and got given the a bespoke model with a turbo enhancement then they’d have to say that and that the laptops coming on sale were not going to be as good.
The new guide means bloggers must disclose any relationship. Here’s the quote;
The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.
It seems likely that some brands – both large and small – will have to carefully back out of current strategies and into new ones.
Getting a blogger to review a product or a service can be hard. The FTC hasn’t made this impossible as disclosed reviews are still entirely possible and many bloggers have been disclosing reviews for months now.
A good first step in encouraging genuine reviews is making sure the blogging community is aware of the new product or service in the first place. Brinkwire’s press site uses blog recommendation widgets to show news headlines to bloggers. That works. Another approach is to have a running social media engagement/outreach campaign where you contribute to a real relationship with the blogger so that they’re much more disposed to writing a review when you have news.