The Greatest Legal Issue Surrounding Marketers

My last post covered the ethical and legal issues surrounding employees in the workplace, but what about social media marketers? In my research, I have found that the greatest legal issue marketers face in social media is the issue of disclosure. In 2013, the United States Federal Trade Commission came out with their new version of the .Com Disclosure Guide. Sara Hawkins wrote an article entitled, “What Marketers Need to Know about the New FTC Disclosures,” in which she defines the guide as, “an attempt to narrow the gray area of how marketing and advertising worked on the Internet so companies could maintain compliance with consumer protection laws.” Hawkins explains that in this .Com Disclosure a big aspect is that “all consumer advertising and marketing must be free from deception and unfair practices.” One of these unfair practices is the issue of marketers not providing disclosure in their advertisements. Marketers often hire bloggers or other famous influencers to promote their brand. The advertiser, or the brand is help responsible to make sure that the people they hire are providing full disclosure that they did in fact get hired to promote something. For example, if a blogger is hired by a marketer to promote their new clothing line, the marketer may give the blogger free clothes and then hire him/her to promote the new clothing line on his/her blog. Ethically and legally, the blogger must disclose that they were hired by the marketer. Hawkins explains in her article, “As with all truth in advertising laws, the consumer must know he or she is being sold to before reading something or taking action to purchase.” If a customer is not given full disclosure and later finds out, the blogger was hired to promote, this can greatly take away the credibility of the company and hurt their authority. Ethically, it is just not right. Augie Ray wrote a blog post entitled, “Three Steps to Improve Social Media Marketing” in which he argued for transparency and honesty from social media marketers. He stated, “Study after study demonstrates that consumers want something more from brands than silly images and memes; they want ethical behaviors and communications. The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer Study found that customers increasingly expect brands to ‘place customers ahead of profits and have ethical business practices’ and Interbrand’s 2012 brand study noted that ‘customers…want to feel that the brands they love, are in fact, worthy of that love.” Consumers want to feel they can trust social media marketers. They want full transparency and honesty from those they buy from. One of the biggest way marketer can ensure this is by providing full and honest disclosure.

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