Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Bloggers, social media users are sometimes compensated for promotional links; FTC rules are important

Facebook, Twitter, and blogs (especially connected to shopping sites such as Beso) are offering consumers the opportunity to earn incidental small commissions for providing endorsement links to products offered by participating advertisers.

The concept is controversial with some, as the Federal Trade Commission is concerned that visitors may not know that sometimes a link is effectively a “paid endorsement”. 

Stephanie Clifford has a story in the New York Times Business Day Wednesday, “The shopper as seller: social media sites offer payment for product links” (“Luring Online Shoppers Offline” is the web title), link (website) here

The FTC has had rules about endorsements since 2009.  There is a PDF stating the rules (I posted an earlier version on July 16 2009), link (website) here

PC World has an “everyday language” explanation of the rules here

Generally, bloggers, social media users, and chat room participants must disclose their business connections.

A blog called “Kitcheboy” recently (August 2012) provided an example of how an individual blogger implements the rules, link here

I do sometimes receive sample books and film DVD’s to review, and I disclose these (and I usually provide purchase links if they exist).  I don’t get paid for these reviews. Although I see email "offers" all the time, I have never agreed to any specific (probably cheesy)  “link exchange” or link "sales"  promotion scheme (using Paypal, for example) for compensation, other than legitimate “affiliate marketing” offered on Blogger. 

Consumers are beginning to accept the idea that companies need to advertise in the Internet world to support Internet service provider business models, just as they “tolerated” network commercials on “free” broadcast television in the past.  Remember, “a word from our friendly sponsor” – all the way back to the 50s, on shows that I remember from childhood (like “Beat the Clock”).  

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