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FTC: No payola (without disclosure) for bloggers or other members of social media

The FTC finally got around to issuing guidelines for bloggers and “guerrilla marketers” who hype products in exchange for products or money.  If you have the time and interest, or if you need something to read before going to sleep, check out the 81-page- long Text of the Federal Register Notice.

Adweek notes: “The FTC chose not to make a distinction between professional bloggers and amateurs. It also does not differentiate between paying cash and providing product samples.  Violators face fines of up to $11,000 per infraction.”

Warning to bloggers: FTC may monitor what you write

Bloggers who take compensation for recommending a product may be held liable for any false statements they make about the product, if the Federal Trade Commission follows through with its proposed plan to start regulating viral marketing and blogs, according to Ad Age. The article says the regulations would also apply to content people post on social-network sites such as Facebook.

One of the things I found most surprising in the article is the amount of money spent on this type of marketing.  The article says product marketers, including Microsoft, Ford and Pepsi, spend billions on word-of-mouth and social media. PQ Media projects that marketers will spend $3.7 billion on word-of-mouth marketing in 2011.

The FTC will vote on the proposed regulations this summer, after a period for public comments. So, the FTC wants guerilla marketing to be factual?  I don’t have any problem with that.

Use online video to do things you can’t do on TV

TV can be a great marketing tool for lawyers, but it has limitations: (a) a 30 to 60 second message; (b) the need to gain your viewer’s confidence in 30 or 60 seconds; and (c)  the need for the potential client to  remember how to contact your firm. I believe you can use online video to do some things that you just can’t do on TV. We tried this in a video that we recently used in a Yamaha Rhino campaign. The Rhino is a side-by-side off road vehicle that rolls over very easily. It’s caused hundreds of deaths, amputations, and crushed bones.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating the Rhino, buy Yamaha acts as if there’s no problem. I thought Yamaha deserved a satirical look at their inaction. Here’s the video:

The hazards of Twittering

Should lawyers Twitter? For those who haven’t been keeping up with what’s going on in the “social media,” Twitter is what some call a micro-blog service that lets you post 140-character messages any time you feel like it. The Wall Street Journal’s technology blog Digits reported that Google’s Eric Schmidt referred to Twitter Tuesday as “a poor man’s email system.”

I’ve never thought anybody cared to know what I do all through the day, so I’ve never bothered to Twitter. Nevertheless, some marketing experts are now pushing everyone to Twitter, including lawyers. [Read more…]

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