FTCAs you know, over the past few weeks, Advertising, Marketing & Promotions Partner Allison Fitzpatrick and I have been discussing the FTC’s updated answers to its FAQs. The following topics will conclude this series: online reviews, employee endorsements, and monitoring.

Online Reviews: According to the FTC, a retail website that includes customer reviews of the products and encourages honest reviews of its products, regardless of whether the reviews are positive or negative, should disclose which reviews were made in connection to free products. Knowing that reviewers received the product they reviewed for free would likely affect the weight the audience gave to the reviews, even if the retailer did not intend for that to happen. In addition, reviewers could fear that they might stop receiving products if they wrote negative reviews about the products.

Employee Endorsements: Employees should first check with their employer before they mention their company’s products in social media posts to ensure compliance with company’s policies. If the company allows employees to use social media to talk about its products, employees should make sure that their relationship is disclosed to the audience. An employee should disclose his or her relationship with the employer when posting a review on a review site. Listing the employer on employee’s profile page would not be a sufficient disclosure.

Monitoring: The FTC does not expect large companies to monitor every social media posting by their employees. However, companies should establish a formal program to remind employees periodically of the company’s disclosure policy, especially if the company encourages employees to share their opinions about the company’s products on social media. If the company learns that an employee has posted a review on the company’s website or a social media site without adequately disclosing his or her relationship to the company, the company should remind the employee of its company policy and ask him to remove that review or adequately disclose that they are an employee of company. According to the FTC, if a company’s social media program is run by an outside public relations firm, the company is ultimately responsible for what the firm and others post on its behalf. The company should make sure that its public relations firm has an appropriate program in place to train and monitor members of its social media network, and should ask for regular reports confirming that the program is operating properly. Delegating part of a promotional program to an outside entity does not relieve a company of responsibility under the FTC Act. To view the FTC’s full FAQs, click here.

The Way I See It:

  • Marketers and their agencies should remember that the fundamental requirement of the updated FAQs remains the same: when someone receives something of value in exchange for marketing or reviewing a product, a disclosure is necessary.
  • Disclosures should be made clearly and conspicuously, and should be tailored to the user experience of respective social media platforms. Marketers should also make reasonable efforts to monitor and train those that make statements on their behalf, including influencers, public relations agencies, and employees.