Social media disclosure and ethics for big brands — Live from Member Meeting 31

Coverage of this session by Evan Perkins of Connect with him by following him on Twitter.

3:10 — Kurt Vanderah introduces's CEO, Andy Sernovitz.

3:11 — Andy: As a leader of social at a big brand you are the steward for your brand's role in social media.

3:12 — The job of vendors and agencies are to give you great ideas, but not to give insight on ethics or legal input on a campaign. So how do you know the right thing to do?

3:13 — Andy: Staying ethical and safe is social is easy. Trust is essential.

The first step of a social campaign/program is securing the trust of those who are engaging and reposting.

3:14 — Andy: The difference between honesty and sleazery is DISCLOSURE: “And now a word from our sponsors.”

Disclosure is easy in social. The better you do it, the more people trust you.

3:15 — Andy: This is not my opinion. It's the law. Advertising and editorial content have coexisted for years. These aren't new social media laws. The FTC is saying that all the rules that apply to marketers apply to social media, too. It's always illegal to pretend your marketing is consumer opinion. Social media is no exception.

3:16 — Rule 1: You're required to require truthfulness and disclosure in social media.

3:18 — Rule 2: Monitor the conversation and do a good faith effort to correct whatever goes wrong. This applies to those whom you have asked to blog or write on your behalf.

3:19 — Rule 3: It is your job to teach Rules No. 1 and 2. Create social media policies and training.

3:20 — Rule +1: Don't pay money for social media coverage.

3:21 — Andy: 10 magic words: I work for ___________ and this is my personal opinion.

3:22 — Who are you? Were you paid? Is it an honest opinion based on a real experience? These are common sense, plain-English disclosures.

3:24 -– Andy: Disclosure has to be clear and conspicuous to the average reader. The FTC requires obvious, up front disclosure.

3:25 -– “Don't lie to your mom.” If your mom can't read your paid posts and clearly understand they're advertising, you have a disclosure problem.

3:26 -– Andy: In the end, if you can't be honest, don't do it. FTC: “If you can't figure out how to do it legally in a clear and conspicuous way, then you're not allowed to do it.”

3:27 — Andy: It's specifically deceptive if you use weird hashtags (ie, “spon”), strange links (ie, “more info” or “nativeAds”), small print, and hard to find disclosures. Another example: If you wait to disclose at the end of your content, that's trickery.

3:29 -– The brand is 100% liable for anything and everything the agency does on your behalf. Regardless of whether or not you know about it or not.

3:30 -– Andy: The biggest current risk in the market right now is no education and training.

3:31 -– FTC: “The biggest way to not get busted: Have a good social media policy at your company so that everyone knows your rules.”

3:33 -– At, we encourage brands to use our Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit. It can be found here:

Big companies have the opportunity to screw up social media or to do something really good. We, as social media executives, have the opportunity to keep social from becoming the cesspool that email is now. Save your brand, save your reputation, save your job.

3:34 -– Andy: Have some Brand Pride: We're the greatest brands on earth that have been built over decades. Billions have been spent to build the brand name.

3:35 -– Raise your standards. Anything that makes an ad look like a not-ad is wrong. If you have to disclose it, it's probably deceptive.

3:36 -– FTC: The need for a disclosure really a warning a sign that it may contain some element of deception. “We're not sayin', we're just sayin'.”

Andy: If you have to ask, the answer is no. It's easier to be honest. Pass it on.