FTC Regulations Update at Social Media Association

You may be surprised by how many things you’re doing on social media that would upset the Federal Trade Commission.

On Thursday April 20, Joyce Shulman, the founder and CEO of Macaroni Kid, which helps millions of moms receive valuable local and national e-newsletters, spoke about FTC Disclosure Regulations in a presentation by the Social Media Association. After breakfast and mingling, Joyce Shulman spoke at the Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington about FTC regulations, specifically with regards to social media.

One word to describe the opening of the seminar was scary. When Joyce listed all the technicalities that are against FTC regulations, those in the room began to chatter. Things such as not disclosing if a meal was complimentary on a social media account when complimenting the restaurant, or not disclosing a relationship or job relationship that may exist in a tweet.

Simply posting a picture of a dinner without any words can be “an endorsement” of the restaurant by the FTC which requires disclosure if the person posting the picture has a relationship with that restaurant. These topics raised many questions directed in Joyce’s direction.

Shulman said that smaller companies shouldn’t be as worried as the large corporations about FTC social media rules, but cautioned that the FTC has made it clear that the disclosure regulations apply to everyone: influencers, advertisers, businesses, agencies and others, though the FTC is more likely to pursue larger businesses in part, she speculated, to send a message to smaller companies.

The round-circle discussion was very conversational with Joyce open to all questions. Those at the Landmark were shocked by many of the answers they were receiving on things they never would have imagined to be FTC violations. Joyce suggested that everyone who is playing professionally in the social media space take three steps to help to avoid potential issues.

First off, get educated about the rules. FTC regulations are evolving as quickly as new social media platforms are emerging, so it’s important to stay on top of the current rules and readings to ensure compliance.

Next, create a plan. Even better, write out that plan specifying how you, people who work for you and influencers you hire will take action to comply with the FTC’s disclosure rules.

Finally, monitor compliance with that plan you created. It’s one thing to make a plan that covers your company, but if you aren’t doing anything to enforce it, then what good is it? And the best way to monitor it is going back to step one and making sure to stay up to date on the rules.

The FTC is concerned about individuals misleading the public. How else can you know if the review you are reading is authentic, or it’s because the author received the meal or appliance for free and would like more free things? Information like that is vital to be included in any article or blog post.

In a world where the term “fake news” — whether perceived or in actuality — is gaining in popularity by the day, it’s more important now than ever that the public has access to true, unbiased information.

And it’s just as important for people and corporations to know how to combat these potential violations.

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