Social media disclosure: best practice

April 20, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Posted in Case studies, Ethics | 2 Comments
Tags: social media, word of mouth, womma, Ethics, ftc guidelines, best practice

Ethics are one of the four pillars of WOM UK. Best practice in terms of listening and engagement is a big issue in word of mouth, where legislation is lagging behind activity, and the lines are often blurred between brand and consumer spaces.

We help both practitioners and clients keep on top of the latest ethical standards and case studies via our blog posts and events but members also get access to the WOMMA ethics assessment tool and case study library, as well as the collective knowledge and guidance our own WOM UK Council.

WOMMA’s latest contribution is this deck, essential reading for anyone looking to understand the landscape in the US, which is of huge relevance to our industry here.

Do you think we’ll move towards some FTC-style guidelines? What are the different challenges our side of the pond? Post your thoughts and comments below and do think about joining WOM UK if you’d like much, much more where this came from.

When does information become incentivisation?

December 3, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Posted in Ethics | 2 Comments
Tags: social media ethics, word of mouth ethics, disclosure, sponsored conversation, ftc guidelines, paid WOM

Back when the FTC’s guidelines on US bloggers’ disclosure of brand payment and gifting were announced in October, the controversy was predictably loud. The likes of CBS and Media Bistro highlighted the questions and ethical issues that the guidelines left unanswered, and the IAB published an open letter warning that they posed a threat to the Constitutional right to free speech. Search Engine Watch in particular said what many others were feeling: that opinions are different from fact, and the guidelines will be near-impossible to enforce.

Well, we’ll soon see. This week the guidelines finally came into effect and the continued debate around their usefulness will almost certainly have implications for future UK, European and global legislation.

The Boston Globe has collated a number of opinions from US bloggers. Most agree that there is a need to protect the independence of social media word of mouth, but there is also a strong sense that the guidelines ignore the subtleties of the space. Particularly interesting is the view of Ryan Spaulding, of Ryan’s Smashing Life music blog, that certain assets given to him by brands simply facilitate his opinion-making, without obligation: “I don’t look at it as payment. It’s what it takes to get the job done. To me this whole thing is a wide-cast net that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

In some ways the hostility of the blogosphere has been surprising. Communities are fiercely protective of their independence and any attempts to astroturf, flog or conceal paid WOM have historically been met with vigilance and animosity. As blogger Dan Brown has asserted, the guidelines do have a necessary and positive role to play in maintaining trust. But it’s also evident that developing a relationship with a brand – which may bring certain assets, trials and exclusive information, events or opportunities – is a very different thing to being paid to talk. Bloggers who do the former, with the benefit of their readership in mind, do not want to be tarred with the latter’s brush.

What do you think? if you want to explore these and related issues in more detail face to face, join us at the FREE WOM UK/IAB debate Should social media be paid for? next Monday 7th December. Click here for details and to register.

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