Social Media Ethics Briefing: Staying Out of Trouble — Live from BlogWell

Coverage of this session by SAP’s Marilyn Pratt. Follower her on Twitter at @marilynpratt.

3:10 — Kurt Vanderah introduces the Social Media Business Council‘s CEO, Andy Sernovitz.

3:12 – Andy: It’s all about trust.

3:13 – Andy: You can’t tack the ethics stuff on the end. Trust is the right thing to do and the only way to be successful

3:13 – Andy: Disclosure is the difference between honesty and sleazery.  Disclosure makes your message more credible and powerful – it’s not “that extra thing that gets in the way of your marketing campaign.”

3:15 – Andy: Disclosure is the law and it isn’t different in the new media.

3:16 – Andy shares his three guides for safe social media outreach: 1) Require disclosure in your outreach; 2) Monitor conversation and correct misstatements; 3) Create policies and training programs.

3:18 – Andy shares his personal additions to the FTC rules: 1) Never pay for it — if you pay, it’s advertising – once you pay for word of mouth it never goes away;  2) Use real disclosure – that means clear and conspicuous to average reader; 3) If your mom can’t figure out what is an ad and what is editorial, you have a problem.

3:21 – Andy shares his 10 Magic Words for ethical disclosure: “I work for __________ and this is my personal opinion.”

3:22 – Andy’s three keys of disclosure: 1) Who are you? 2) Were you paid? 3) Is this an honest opinion based on a real experience? Andy explains that the more you disclose, the easier it becomes because it is part of a real program.

3:23 — Andy says the rules of ethics and honesty are often overlooked in the rush for cool factor, and that the biggest risk is a failure to properly train your team.

3:25 – Andy: 18 months before the FTC ruling, the Social Media Business Council created the Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit. It focuses on:

  • Discosure of identity
  • Personal blogging
  • Blogger relations
  • Compensation disclosure
  • Agency and contractor
  • Maintaining creative flexibility while doing the right thing

3:27 – Andy: You are responsible for what your employees do on your behalf. You need to take care with who you hire.

3:31 – Andy’s final rule of thumb: If you have to ask, the answer is “no.”


Q: Where to get the disclosure guidelines and what do they cost?

A: The Social Media Business Council’s website – anyone can access it:

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