As of December 1, 2009 the Federal Trade Commission is going to require Bloggers, Podcasters and video producers – any producer of consumer-generated content online to disclose any paid endorsements to their followers and audience they communicate with online. These new rules have the potential to change everyone’s online habits. Here’s what you need to know:
If you receive even a small fee in exchange for reviewing a particular product or writing a blog post about it – this new ruling applies to you. Under the FTC’s new rules, all bloggers who blog for dollars will have to disclose that they are receiving a fee for their blog post. In addition, bloggers will also need to disclose any gifts they receive such as books, product samples or even toothpaste. All merchandise now counts as compensation.
Many bloggers already disclose when they are being paid for reviews, but this could get tricky for some blogs who use sponsors, and particularly for some corporations such as Walmart, Office Max etc. who use mom bloggers to target women customers. It will be interesting to see how these relationships will change.
Transparency is what you need to have in social media anyway, but now it’s on another level. Prominent users of social networks such as Twitter will need to pay attention to the FTC’s new rules. If you want to give a business some praise – do it, but if you work there, you need to tell people. If you want to get on Twitter and talk about how great a new book or product is…make sure people know it’s your product or that you are the author.
When commenting on blogs and in forums, please do not pretend to be someone else particularly if you are leaving a negative comment. If you post comments in an online forum that undercuts your competitor without making it clear who you are, you have broken the rules.
The FTC is not trying to fine mombloggers! Repeat offenders may end up being punished, but the new regulations are really just trying to regulate how advertisers pay for endorsements and reviews.
So Blogger Beware!
What you do think about the new FTC regulations? Should you really have to disclose a free book?
Additional resources on the new FTC regulations:
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