When to use #Ad in your tweets

How do you stay transparent while bringing marketing value to the brand?  There is an art to it, so you aren’t spamming your stream.  It’s a fine balance.  Be selective.   As Mark Schaefer recently wrote about “The Slippery Slope of Influence Marketing,” “emerging Citizen Influencers have to be very judicious in their relationships with brands.”

I wanted to understand the technical aspect as an influencer:  when should one include #Ad in their tweet or postings to bring legal transparency?  I reached out to attorney Kerry O’Shea Gorgone host of the MarketingProfs podcast – http://www.marketingprofs.com/podcasts — , to  get answers to the following questions and clarify confusion regarding several conversations I’ve had with social media peers.

  • When you are tweeting an ad for a client, does it matter that it’s for a third party?

Anytime there’s a connection that’s not immediately apparent to the reader, you should disclose the relationship. This might not necessarily mean using the hashtag #ad (no one searches for that, do they?), but find a way to make it clear the brand has a relationship with your client.  The FTC requires disclosures with every post, and although the specifics remain somewhat unclear, there are guidelines, many of which point out practices that would not meet the standard.  (I’ve written about the 4Ps of FTC disclosure on my blog.)

One way of making a more robust disclosure despite character limits is to use a service like CMP.LY, which lets you write a complete disclosure, then generates a custom short link (I use my-disclosur.es) that makes it clear this is a sponsored post.

  • When you are retained for social media services and participate on Twitter chats, Google+ hangouts, do you need to write the word #Ad for each posting?

The FTC has said that you can’t assume that people will read posts in succession, so you need to disclose with each new post.

  • When you are on a familiarization trip (A free or low cost) trip for travel agents or consultants, provided by a travel operator or airline as a means of promoting their service.) should you include the word #Ad to each photo posting, or tweet?  Or what is the alternative hashtag?

Again, it’s not about what hashtag you use:  it’s about making it clear to an average consumer that there’s a relationship they might not otherwise be aware of.  How you do this is up to you, but #SPON doesn’t mean anything to most people, so #Ad is preferable, but you still might need more.

  • When you say I love my Samsung GALAXY camera which I truly do, if I post my feelings as such, would this considered an ad since I received the camera for free?  I also receive continuation of payment for advertising this product.

If you’re still being paid, the relationship’s ongoing, which means you’d still need to disclose.  If you’re sharing photos taken on the camera, but not mentioning the camera, that’s different.  However, if you’re expressing positive opinions about a camera you got for free, it’s important that people know there’s a relationship between you and the brand.

  • When you are donating your time for a charity, (i.e. when I wrote up a post to bring attention to the school’s needs for donation, etc.  In return, I received free ticket to the concert.  How should I treat this?

(So, you didn’t realize you were getting the ticket in exchange for writing the post?)

“Donation” means no paid relationship, which means no disclosure’s necessary.  If you were treated to a charity concert or received a paid trip to a groundbreaking ceremony in Bora Bora, disclose this, whether or not it’s “compensation” in the classic sense of the word.

Disclosing is another way of respecting your audience:  make sure they have all the information necessary before they click your link, book a hotel, or buy a product based on your blog or social media posts.  Whether you use CMP.LY, #Ad, or the simple phrase “thanks to Brand X for the free product sample,” make it clear to those who aren’t in the know that you’ve received something for free.


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