If You Think Social Media Marketing is a Free-For-All, Think Again!

It is undeniable that we live in a digital world, where mobile devices and social media have intertwined and completely altered the way we communicate and live. Large companies and small business are becoming increasingly dependent on online and digital advertising. They recognize the importance of using social platforms to sell their products, attract and interact with customers, and promote their brand. Some companies are willing to drop more than $100 million for advertising for the initial launch. However, if you are going to invest a large chunk of change into an online advertising plan, it is important to be familiar with the FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) regulations.

Recently, the FTC released a new disclosure on online advertising guidelines. It has been 13 years since they last made changes so it is a pretty big deal, considering so much has changed throughout those years. Advertisers and businesses alike should review the new guidelines to ensure compliance. Twitter, in particular, received special attention by the FTC so if you currently are using this social platform to advertise, or are considering adopting Twitter into your social media strategy, you must become familiar with the advertising guidelines.

If disclosure is needed in the tweet ad, then it must be stated in each tweet. For example, you cannot tweet a disclosure that is necessary, and then later send a subsequent tweet that does not include the disclosure. Do not make any assumptions that consumers will see both tweets, especially when you consider that more than 400,000 tweets go out each day.

Just because Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet, that is not a valid excuse to omit disclosures. Online advertising companies and businesses must learn to take advantage of hashtags and get creative with their wording. It’s the only way to get their promotional tweet across, while still including the appropriate disclosure. Some suggestions include:

  • Begin the tweet with the “Ad:” so that tweeters know it is an advertisement
  • Use the hashtag #sponsored somewhere in the tweet
  • Do not abbreviate words, which could be potentially misinterpreted by consumers

Hyper About Hyperlinks
The new FTC guidelines for advertising discuss hyperlinks in more discrete details. If there is a disclosure that is in a hyperlink, it is recommended that you make the hyperlink obvious. It should be labeled clearly and should be completely noticeable. The FTC wants to make sure that a hyperlink provides customers with a real and actual reason to click on it. There is a bit of a “gray area” when it comes to mobile devices because the advertisements often appear differently on an app than they would on a desktop monitor or laptop screen. The FTC recommends using visual cues in order to make sure consumers are aware of disclosures. The main goal is to limit the need for scrolling.

Although these new guidelines posted by the FTC may seem unreasonable, they are in the best interest of the consumers and are designed to keep everyone on the same page. They are certainly not impossible guidelines to meet, but they must be paid special attention if you want to be successful in your online advertising efforts.