The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) released a new version of the group’s Social Media Marketing Disclosure Guide (WOMMA Guide), updating the original version released in 2010.
The WOMMA Guide is intended to highlight best practices and responsibilities of using social media. Notably, it helps marketers and advocates comply with the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (FTC Guides), which require endorsers – including bloggers – to disclose any material connection they might have with the companies whose products they mention.
Emphasizing the need for adequate disclosures that are clear and prominent, with easily understood and unambiguous language, the WOMMA Guide advocates a three-step “best practices” model for marketers: (i) institute a company-wide social media policy in line with the FTC Guides, (ii) make sure that advocates have a similar policy in place, and (iii) monitor what both employees and advocates do on your behalf.
The WOMMA Guide includes sample “best practices” language for various platforms, including blogs, microblogs, online comments, social networks, video sharing websites, photo sharing websites, curated content, and podcasts. For example, the WOMMA Guide suggests model disclosure for a microblog like Twitter that would include a short phrase indicating that a “material connection” exists or a hashtag like “#spon,” “#paid,” or “#samp.” WOMMA also strongly recommends including a link on a Twitter profile page, close to the endorsement or testimonial, that directs readers to a full “Disclosure and Relationships Statement” which should state how the advocate works with companies in accepting and reviewing products and include a list of any conflict of interests that might affect the blogger’s credibility.
In addition to providing examples of disclosures for various platforms, the WOMMA Guide also addresses situations that may require additional disclosure issues. Contests and promotions, “like-gating,” and the use of social incentives, among other issues, are “challenging and emerging areas” which may require additional consideration, the WOMMA Guide notes.
To read WOMMA’s updated Social Media Marketing Disclosure Guide, click here.
Why it matters: Brands are increasingly using word-of-mouth marketing programs in social media, so they must be careful to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Advocates also must be sure to adequately disclose their relationships to marketers. The FTC has recently taken action against both advocates and marketers for failing to comply with the FTC Guides. WOMMA’s model disclosures offer important guidance for marketers and advocates seeking to comply with the requirements, in addition to material available from the FTC.