WOMMA suggests new social media guidelines
The issue of transparency in social media continues to be an area of focus and concern among marketing professionals, and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association's (WOMMA) members have been seeking additional guidance on the issue.
Consequently, WOMMA's leaders recently convened to draft specific recommendations, and has now published its social media marketing disclosure guidelines, designed to provide practical advice when engaging social media participants (e.g. bloggers) in brand marketing initiatives.
While WOMMA has an existing code of ethics for word of mouth marketing, the US FTC Guidelines on Endorsements and Testimonials (which were designed to promote absolute transparency and keep consumers informed) have spurred both marketers and bloggers to seek greater clarity and best practices for social media disclosure.
With the number of social media web sites continually increasing, many brands and agencies are implementing dynamic word-of-mouth marketing and social media programmes online. "In fact, most brands are already seeking to forge better connections with their customers through social media," said Paul Rand, board president for WOMMA and CEO for the Zocalo Group. "Clear and prominent disclosure helps protect both consumers and marketers."
The new WOMMA guidelines provide specific best practices on how bloggers, marketers and other who participate in social media can be transparent and non-intrusive - all with the intent of developing a closer relationship with brands and organisations that is built on trust. The guidelines apply to personal, editorial and product review blogs, online discussion comments, Twitter and other short-form microblogging services, status updates on social networking sites, as well as video, podcasts and other photo sharing websites.
For example, for personal and editorial blogs, the guidelines recommend the blogger should use language such as: "I received (name of product or sample) from (company name), or (company name) sent me (product or sample)".
And for platforms such as Twitter, the guidelines recommend that marketers employ the following hashtags:
- #spon (sponsored)
- #paid (paid)
- #samp (sample)
In addition to the established requirements for disclosure best practices, WOMMA's recommendations for maintaining full FTC compliance include creating and prominently posting a 'Disclosure and Relationships Statement' section. (The specific location and wordage of such a statement is intended to coincide with the social media platform being used.)
"While the FTC Guidelines are relatively straightforward, marketers and bloggers still had plenty of questions on exactly what they should be communicating or sharing, explained WOMMA's general counsel, Tony DiResta.