In previous blogs I commented on the importance of having scientific data to support advertisements for green products. Compliance with FTC’s Green Guides should also be considered when using social media to promote green products.
In October of 2009 the FTC updated the Guide Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. (16 CFR 255) It is FTC’s position that regardless of whether the endorsement is made by a consumer or an expert, there are still guidelines as to those communications. Just because a green product is promoted in an informal blog or on a Facebook page, the promoter of the product must still disclose any important connection, that exists between the company and the endorser. For example, if the company gave a blogger a free product in exchange for a review, the blogger must reveal that they received the product for free.
If someone blogs about their experience with a green product or service, the communication must include a clarification as to what the average consumer can expect. Merely stating that the blogger’s experience may not be typical, may not constitute a safe harbor from a claim of deceitful advertising by the FTC.
Individuals and companies that rely upon various social media platforms that have significant space restraints (such as Twitter), are also not relieved of their duty to reveal their relationship with the manufacturer and disclose any limitations regarding the product’s positive environmental benefits.
FTC makes it clear that regardless of the casual or informal nature of discussing products in social media, the same burdens of disclosure exists. Bloggers must reveal their relationships with the company and have the same supporting scientific data, as the manufacturer has to support its own advertisements. Blogging and the use of social media cannot be used to promote products in a manner inconsistent with FTC’s Green Guides. As a general rule, a blogger with corporate ties cannot promote a product, if that same communication would be considered deceitful if it appeared in the manufacturer’s own advertisement.