This is a cross post from the Public Relations Society Association (PRSA) Detroit chapter’s summer bulletin.
The personal touch and ability to humanize a brand is at the core of social media’s success. But, the line between ‘authentic’ word of mouth endorsements and social media marketing can get very blurry. For people posting under the company moniker, followers, fans, and friends all clearly understand the source. However, it’s a different ballgame if someone is posting about a client or customer under their personal brand.
I asked fellow professionals how they balanced social media and honoring the PRSA Ethics Code. The one commonality: full disclosure is definitely a challenge with Twitter’s 140 character tweets and 160 character profile limitations. Actually, it’s more than a challenge since the October 2009 release of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. It is now a legal issue. The guide outlines how elements of our PRSA Honor Code are a matter of law, not preference.
If you are posting under your own name, here are 5 ways you can protect yourself and honor The Code.
1. Create a page on your website for listing your relationships
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) strongly recommends posting a link on your profile page that directs people to a full “Disclosure and Relationships Statement.” This makes it easy for people to find the information.
2. Cite the identity of the brand in your profile
If you don’t have a website to link a full disclosure page to, then you may want to list the key clients. Once again it’s the Twitter 160 profile character limit that poses the biggest constraint. If they are publicly traded, you can use their stock exchange ticker. There is typically enough space in Facebook’s “About Me” section and your own personal blog to highlight any relationships.
3. Make a hash tag notation
There are common hash tags that you can include in your tweet that serve as forms of disclosure such as #spon (sponsored), #paid (paid), #rep (represent), and #samp (sample). Sample is used when someone receives a product sample or is asked to try out a service as part of the company’s market research and outreach. If you do a search, you will see lots of people are using these terms.
4. State you are sharing your personal opinion
If you feel the lines may be blurry, add some insurance by stating the views are your personal opinion. If you are microblogging and faced with character limitations, use acronyms like IMO (in my opinion) or IMHO (in my humble opinion).
5. Tag a Video, Audio blog, or Podcast
Most people are familiar with rolling credits and caveats at the end of broadcast mediums. A short sentence at the end will result in a salute of honor by disclosing any relevant relationships.
Whether it’s PRSA’s Code of Honor, FTC regulations, or WOMMA, the goal is to create clear and easy-to-find disclosures. As long as you speak “Twitterese” or understand Text lingo, these tips work well. If any of the online terminology is unclear, InternetSlang.com, is a reliable source for acronyms.