The power of blogs, Twitter and Facebook to drive marketing strategies and influence purchasing decisions is undeniable; but, companies need to remember that legally the same rules apply online as offline.
While uptake may not be as quick as it should be, particularly among the larger players (see the in-cosmetics posting on this topic from January 4) blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media strategies are undoubtedly showing their worth within the industry.
However, companies embracing these new tools need to remember that although novel, they do remain subject to the same laws as more traditional media, particularly regarding the distinction between paid for content and independent material.
In a recent case, the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) underlined that paid for content of any kind needs to be flagged up as such, even online, making it clear that this includes comments on websites, blogs and microblogs, including Twitter.
One recent example in the beauty world involved actress Liz Hurley and a number of tweets describing some ‘divine’ Estée Lauder products.
There was no reference in Hurley’s tweets, which recommended using a number of Estée Lauder products, of her long running contract with Estée Lauder. However, in a later tweet responding to the media attention, Hurley said:“It’s hardly a secret that I work for Estée Lauder – I’ve modelled for them for 17 years. Love telling u about their products – they’re the best”.
While the OFT made it clear that companies must clarify the promotional nature of a tweet or blog, they have not specified how this should be done; and, clearly it needs to be concise considering Twitter’s 140 character limit.
Blogs are not unregulated
Similarly, promotional material on other blogging sites is subject to the same rules: if it has been paid for by money, or in kind, this needs to be disclosed.
While these concerns should not keep companies from embracing new social media, and their worth has been illustrated by many of the smaller brands, companies would do well to remember that the same rules still apply, online as well as offline.