The Big List Blog

| All |

Social Media Ethics Briefing: Staying Out of Trouble — Live from BlogWell

Coverage of this session by staff.

3:10 — Kurt Vanderah introduces‘s CEO, Andy Sernovitz.

3:11 — Andy says, “This will not be a downer talk.”

3:13 — Andy: Here’s the issue: As a social media leader and big brand, you’re in a unique position: You have to lead social media, but you also have to make sure everything’s legal. Not most of us have legal training, and if you ask our lawyers, most of them would just wish that social would go away. We’ve got all these cool tools that help us do things, but not a button that says “Think about this, first.” So where do you turn? You’re surrounded by so many resources, but there’s no one to help you with legal issues. The job of an agency or tech provider isn’t to tell you what’s legal or ethical.

3:14 — Andy is going to share the rules to follow and how to run a clean social media campaign. About half of this is new because of the new FTC updates, but half of this is the same thing we do every time.

3:14 — Andy: It starts with trust. That’s the secret to success in social media. Social media is impossible without some sort of relationship with someone who is willing to put his or her name on the line and endorse your brand.

What that means is you can’t build a program of sharing without starting with ethics first. Ethics isn’t something you review at the end, trust-building is the beginning. That’s the secret to success.

3:15 — It all comes down to this big idea: Disclosure.

You can do all of these fun campaigns, but only if everyone knows it’s advertising.

3:15 — Andy: The difference between honesty and sleazery is the phrase, “and now, a word from our sponsor.” When you get that piece right, you’ll establish trust, and people will be more likely to talk about your brand. When you’re overly open about what’s marketing, your marketing spreads further and faster and has a bigger impact.

3:17 — Andy says disclosure is the law. This is not a topic for a SXSW panel. So I suggest you get some advice from your legal team and not just hope that it goes away. The FTC recently updated their laws and will only keep busting brands.

3:18 — They keep reminding us with updates and notices, but they’re going to begin by FTC Act signed by Woodrow Wilson. It’s purpose is to stop unfair trade practices.

New kind of marketing comes along, a bunch of marketers try to squeeze in fake consumer endorsements, and in every case, the FTC steps in and cleans it up, then we all know the rules.

3:18 — Andy reminds the audience it’s always been illegal, and
that social media doesn’t get exemptions from the law. The good news is it;s really easy to comply with the whole thing

3:19 — Rules for Safe Social Media Outreach:

  1. Require disclosure and truthfulness in social media outreach.
  2. Monitor the conversation and correct misstatements. (This is the clean up your messes clause.) The FTC says, “We know you know every time your brand is mentioned on earth.”
  3. Create social media policies and training. You have to teach these obligations.
    Plus,’s addition: Don’t pay for it. (Who trusts positive word of mouth from a company who paid for it sometimes?)

3:21– Andy says, “The moment you pay for it, it’s not social media anymore. It’s advertising.”

3:22 — Andy: When people learn that you paid for some of your word of mouth, they won’t believe the genuine word of mouth.

3:23 — 10 Magic Words: “I work for _____, and this is my personal opinion.” This is a good habit: Disclosure and separating official corporate statements.

3:24 — Andy says to answer these questions:
Who are you? If you ask people to do this, they have to disclose they’re a part of the marketing program.
Were you paid? This isn’t about handing out samples on the street — it’s about sending your stuff to people to solicit word of mouth.
Is it an honest opinion based on a real experience? This is something that’s always illegal, even if you disclose it.

3:25 — When is disclosure good enough? Here’s the definition

Clear and Conspicuous: Obvious disclosure + Upfront + Don’t lie to your mom

3:25 — Andy: The average consumer should know when they look at your content that it’s marketing. If you have to click on a link, read the whole post, or look through “More Info,” none of that counts. Someone experience in your ad has to know it’s an ad without doing any additional work. Do the “mom test:” If your mom wouldn’t understand that a campaign is marketing, you have to ask yourself why you’re putting together something that would trick your own mother.

3:26 — Andy shares In March, completely out of the blue, the FTC send us (meaning professional social media marketers, especially at big brands.)
The 2013 FTC Warning: Stop ignoring us + Stop faking it + If you can’t be honest, don’t do it.

3:27 — Andy: If you don’t know how to be honest in a social medium, don’t use it. It’s illegal.

3:27 — Andy: We, the marketing industry, are being put on notice, as the social media industry, that the FTC isn’t happy and will be cracking down. When you see the brands put on notice, those are spankings. And when the spankings start, the groundings begin, and it gets worse from there (depending on how you were raised.)

3:28 — Andy shares some disclosure #fails:

  • #spon = #bs (If it’s sponsored, it should say #sponsored). We understadn what #spon means, but to the general public, it means nothing.
  • (People aren’t supposed to know to click on a link for disclosure).
  • “Native ads.”

3:29 — The FTC is talking a lot about Native Advertising. It’s being seen as intentional attempts to avoid proper disclosure. Andy says people are inventing ways to pretend to do disclosure. It should just be simple enough to say, “Hey, this is an ad.”

3:30 — Andy: The brands, the one’s who write the checks, are 100% liable. A great agency would have called you in March. Your agency should not be telling you these rules don’t matter. You should be really worried if your agency hasn’t come to you to tell you about the FTC’s update or are recommending you do things not in compliance with these rules. Get it in writing that they will meet or exceed your standards and the FTC disclosure rules.

3:31 — No one sets out to do a stealth marketing campaign. It goes bad when there’s untrained departments take over.
No one is an expert in social media risk.

3:32 — Andy: No one goes out there and says, “My plan is to embarrass us in social media.” So what happens? The junior staffer isn’t knowledgeable enough to say that a cool idea doesn’t meet the rules.

3:33 — Andy: The good news is there’s a safe place. The FTC says if you, the company, create a social media policy and train your team, the FTC will not hold the company responsible if somebody screws up or an employee goes “rogue.”

3:34 — has a free tool called a Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit which shares all of the best advice from all of our members in great checklists. It was put together by 20 Fortune 500 companies and then looked over by their legal. It’s been “lawyered up” and hundreds of companies have already started using it.

3:35 — Andy: The reason we do al of this: We have a chance to do something good. We, as the companies who bankroll the technologies, can make all sorts of bad things happen like Junk Mail. It was well-intentioned people at big companies, who let some things slip. We need to say no. We could screw this up for everybody in social media. How we treat social media is what is going to happen.

3:37 — Andy: If you don’t believe all of the high-faluten, save-the-world stuff, remember that the FTC (and Google will come after you if you don’t keep it ethical) Save your brand. Save your reputation. Save your job. (You don’t want to be the person who walks into your boss’s office and says that you’ve gotten the company removed from Google because of an experiment.)

3:37 — Andy: We don’t market our brand with Craigslist ads because we have brand pride. Don’t go there. Ignore the pitches from anyone who smells a little fishy. They’ll pitch a sleazy stealth marketing plan to anyone who will say, “Sure, let’s test it.”

3:39 — Andy: When someone tells you that the best way to promote your brand is to hide it, that doesn’t make any sense. When someone tells you that the best way to promote your brand is to hide your brand, that doesn’t make any sense. The FTC says the point of disguising your brand is to deceive.

3:40 — Andy says the FTC says that anything that makes an ad look like not an ad is illegal. If you have to disclose it, it’s probably deceptive.

3:40 — Andy: FTC: Get rid of the need for disclosure in the first place. “We’re not sayin, we’re just sayin.”

June 19, 2013 0 comments

Comments are closed.