Not all tweets are created equal: the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has decided to impose new regulations for celebrities who advertise on Twitter. The agency involved in the regulation of business activities has updated the rules on consumer protection for online business, publishing a specific document that explains how the VIPs should be tweeting their promotional messages.
When a celebrity mentions a product or a service in social media, the sales can often skyrocket. But is the celebrity really a fan of what is being advertised or is he/she simply being paid to say something nice? After an incident when celebrity Lauren Bacall showed up on “The Today Show” promoting a drug without disclosing she was being paid, the Federal Trade Commission warned celebrities, as well as the marketers that use them, about not disclosing paid endorsements. Afterward, the FTC took steps to ensure social media bloggers disclose when they are being compensated for their comments.
To make it as clear as possible, the FTC has invented a fictional celebrity, named Juli Starz. The fake star promotes a pill “Fat-away” that would help her lose 30 pounds in six weeks. The message also contains a direct link to the product’s website for those who may be interested. According to the FTC, this is an example of how one should not tweet promotionally. Juli in fact has made two mistakes: she did not specify that it was an ad, and secondly, the ad also lacked more precise information on the possibility that others could expect to obtain an identical result.
In a second example, an identical tweet is presented, which contains however the hashtag #spon abbreviation of “sponsored.” In this case Juli still fails to comply with the FTC guidelines. The hashtag #spon, in fact, is still too ambiguous for many potential followers of the diva. It would be much better if the tweet contained the hashtag “ad” ie “advertisement.”
Twitter has hundreds of millions of users, and it is interesting to think about the reach and impact of these free forms of advertising and online promotions. Another thing that is important to emphasize on is the ethicality of these advertisements. In fact, celebrities until now have been free to advertise on social media without really having to disclose whether they are being paid for that endorsement. I think it is important that followers and fans not be deceived and know when it is not a personal opinion, in order for them to make an informed choice about whether they also support the brand or product.
The stars, in either case, are now warned. If you want to advertise, you must comply with the rules. “The same consumer protections laws that apply to commercial activities in other media apply online, including activities in the mobile marketplace,” the FTC said in its guidance. “Required disclosures must be clear and conspicuous.”