|The next time your favorite celebrity mentions some product via Twitter or other social media, she's going to have to let you know if she's being paid for that endorsement.
Twitter's hundreds of millions of users mean one endorsement, made innocently or otherwise, can dramatically boost a product. No wonder, the microblogging service's advertising revenue is expected to reach $540 million next year, according to statistics compiled by the British firm SBW Advertising. Several months ago, MSN Money cited an example of how pop star Justin Beiber's turnaround on Uggs boots -- and his tweet about how he liked them -- may have helped that company's fortunes.
With all that in mind, the Federal Trade Commission just updated its guidelines for mobile and other online advertisers, on how to make those disclosures clear, conspicuous and deception-free.
The challenge, it appears, involves Twitter and other, short-form messages consumers get on social media. To illustrate that challenge, the FTC created a fictional celebrity, "JuliStarz," and had her issue the following fake Tweet:
"Shooting movie beach scene. Had to lose 30lbs in 6 wks. Thanks Fat-away Pills for making it easy. Bit.ly/f56."
The FTC says that tweet wouldn't hold up to its standards for several reasons. First of all, it doesn't disclose that JuliStarz is a paid endorser for Fat-away. It also doesn't specify that the amount of weight Ms. Juli supposedly lost isn't the standard result for the product.
And there's another issue: Given the nature of tweets and streamed messages, having a separate tweet from JuliStarz with a disclaimer (that she's a paid endorser and her results are not the standard for the product) would be "problematic," according to the FTC, "because unrelated messages may arrive in the interim." And by the time the subsequent, disclosure message did show up on a consumer's Twitter feed, that person might have gone elsewhere or not realize the link between the two messages.
The new regulations also says advertisers using "space-constrained" ads on social media platforms should avoid making any disclosures via pop-ups, since they're often blocked by the consumer's computer software.
As L.A. Biz points out, the new guidelines will probably be most upsetting to marketers "who have stealthily infiltrated Twitter celebs to sell their products."
"Many celebrities may not want to be exposed as selling out," it notes, "and may forgo the extra cash rather than add the hashtag #PaidEndorsement on a tweet."