As with many new technological developments, social media was a largely unregulated “wild-west” for marketing purposes for many years. However, the last few years have seen regulatory bodies such as the FTC step in to add some rules in how you can conduct your social media marketing. This has led to some unnecessary anxiety among many marketers when it comes to the topic of social media compliance.
Anxiety often stems from ignorance, and this seems to be the case for many marketers when it comes to recent changes in social media rules recently. A 2017 survey from eMarketer found that 56% of marketers said that they were either not aware of, or not familiar with FTC’s social media policy.
The FTC has started to crack down on online posts that promote products, but don’t clearly define themselves as paid ads. This has impacted many celebrities, as the FTC is looking closely at the content the celebrities produce as influencers. You can see the results of this FTC effort in the changing language of posts; it is much clearer to see what a celebrity is being paid to promote.
The key issue that the FTC appears to be pursuing when it comes to social media compliance is transparency. If someone is being paid to share a message on social media, they should be upfront about their relationship with the company that they are writing about or promoting/endorsing. The guidelines are quite comprehensive, addressing multiple social media channels. Failure to follow the social media guidelines, or improperly disclosing relationships can lead to a fine. When in doubt, disclose.
The big question for many people working in the field of social media marketing is how this might impact employee advocacy efforts. Surprisingly, this is not actually a negative development. Our recommended best practice for employee advocacy, even in a world without social media compliance rules, is full disclosure of all relationships. The reasons are very simple.
It might seem counterintuitive at first, but your employees derive much of their online credibility from being associated with your brand. Employee influencers in your industry build that influence from their employment in the industry – specifically with your company. Hiding that relationship between your employees and the company does not just risk punishment from the FTC, it also damages your ability to effectively use employee advocacy as a social media marketing tool.
As part of setting up your employee advocacy program, you should instruct participants on best practices for their social media profiles. This includes simple elements, such as using high-definition profile pictures, but it is also an excellent time to explain the importance of clearly listing their employer and employment details on their social media profile.
You must also ensure that marketing messages being shared by employees are clearly noted. The best way to do this is to include a disclosure hashtag with each message. Once again, this might seem counterintuitive for some marketers at first, but it is an important part of your social media marketing strategy. When your employees openly declare their place of employment and then write about the products and services they work with, most readers will assume the employee is writing as part of their job. Any attempt to portray it as something else can damage the trust your employee builds with their individual audience. Being transparent with their relationship to you helps them build connections based on a foundation of honesty and trust.
Honesty is said to be the best policy, but when it comes to social media marketing it is also the best route to both social media compliance, and an effective online marketing effort. If you need help navigating FTC policies for your organization, especially when it comes to employee advocacy, we can help.
Watch a demo of GaggleAMP to learn how we can help you leverage the collective power of your employees while remaining compliant.
Bradley Yeater is the former Marketing Manager at GaggleAMP.
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