Feds ponder regulating the blogosphere and social media sites

In case you haven’t heard, the Federal Trade Commission is pondering whether to impose new guidelines on bloggers and Twitter users who stand to receive compensation for their marketing work.

Here’s an article from the Christian Science Monitor on this topic. The FTC’s concern is that some bloggers may not disclose that they’re earning commissions from a particular company when they write a blog that promotes that company’s products. “The common practice of posting a graphical ad or a link to an online retailer – and getting commissions for any sales from it – would be enough to trigger oversight,” the reporter wrote.

We all should keep track of this issue and see how it develops. It’s possible that the FTC might back away from any strict regulations if bloggers are more transparent about financial disclosure. That’s the path that all bloggers should take anyway–it’s usually pretty obvious if someone is being over-the-top promotional about a particular product or company anyway. You build more trust with readers when you’re up front about disclosing a financial interest in the topic you’re writing about.

Existing FTC rules already ban deceptive and unfair business practices. But bloggers are not included in the existing regulations, so that’s one reason the FTC is looking at implementing new guidelines. The huge field of online affiliate marketing could be brought under the new guidelines, and it is likely to include Twitter posts as well as blogs. While this might seem somewhat daunting, it will not affect your ability to be an effective marketer, as long as you adhere to the guidelines.

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