The self-regulating word-of-mouth marketing that happens online may soon change thanks to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC believes that since consumers are increasingly turning to blogs for goods and services advice, the people giving the advice need to be held to the same set of standards as traditional marketers. This means bloggers will have to disclose all sponsored posts or they will be subject to an FTC investigation. In order to achieve this, the FTC has proposed revisions to its Guide Concerning the Use of Endorsement and Testimonials in Advertising report, which hasn’t been amended since 1980. A final copy of the report is expected to be released later this summer. This will be the first time the FTC has ever tried to patrol blogs.
As members in good standing, SMG aligns itself with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) code of ethics, so therefore our client services will not be affected. As members of WOMMA, we are committed to best practices in the ethical conduct of word of mouth marketing. Its Ethical Code of Conduct “helps define best practices, unacceptable practices and baseline rules for word of mouth marketing.” There are six main principles of this Code.
- Consumer protection and respect are paramount
- Honesty of ROI: Honesty of Relationship, Opinion, and Identity
- Respect the rules of the venue
- Manage relationships with minors responsibly
- Promote honest downstream communications
- Protect privacy and permission
We build transparent, genuine relationships with our clients and online influencers. When you try to build relationships using dishonest, unethical methods, you risk a lot more than investigation by the FTC, you risk alienating your customers and a significant brand reputation hit. Remember the kid’s game, Telephone? In the game you would always find three different types of people: those who are loyal to the message, those who are loyal to the messenger and those who are loyal to themselves. When conducting word of mouth marketing, or making an online endorsement, always know where your loyalty lies…and stick to it.