Here are my predictions.
Companies and agencies that practice good blogger relations will continue to do so. They achieve excellent results by building close relationships with bloggers and developing targeted, relevant programs for their communities. They probably already do most of what the FTC requires simply because it is best practice.
However, there won’t be nearly as much free expensive, high-end product going around. Or costly boondoogle trips. Companies will, and should, be much more careful about big programs and selective about who they invite to participate.
This may result in a shake-out in some blogging communities. Bloggers who write because they love to write will continue to do so. Bloggers who blog for the free stuff? If the flow dries up? Maybe not.
Hopefully, it will also result in more creative programs that add value to the community and the brands.
On the other hand, there’s going to be more mass marketing. Guaranteed, there will be more spammy press releases. Addressed to Blogger.
Twitter broadcasts. Lots, lots, lots more contests on Twitter. And not just trivia, which is at least amusing. Tweet “brand name and #hashtag” to enter.
Why? Because when it’s mass and untargeted, there’s no material relationship to disclose. In this context, Facebook’s decision to impose tighter controls on sweepstakes and contests makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?
Mass isn’t always bad. Brands will use conference swag bags even more widely to distribute free samples of inexpensive and even moderately priced products. This supports the community as well as the bloggers, and goes in my column of good consequences.
So far, there are at least three different models for Twitter disclosure. By January, I bet there will be a few more, and one or more will have a monetization strategy. [I’ll be writing about these models later this month.]
Measurement and monitoring tools will add functionality to track disclosure statements on blogs.
There will be at least one FTC enforcement action in the social media space next year. My guess is that it will fit one of these three situations:
- a company or agency does not properly inform the people participating in its word of mouth or blog marketing program of their obligation to disclose;
- an astroturfer, i.e. a company stuffing review sites with unattributed positive reviews of its products;
- an affiliate marketer does not monitor or correct inaccurate statements about its products made by affiliates.
Someday, an astroturfing company is going to try to claim “rogue employee” as a defense, and offer its social media policies and training programs as evidence, but it will turn out that the employee — probably an intern — was directed or at least subtly encouraged to post the fake reviews.
Bloggers will figure out how to disclose their affiliate marketing relationships when linking in posts. For example, Mir Kamin is now using hover text on affiliate links on her shopping blog Want Not, an elegant and relatively non-obtrusive solution. Read her disclosure page for the details.
It won’t take long for most of us to get used to this brave new world. Even celebrities. We’ll make a few changes. Think about things a bit more carefully. And just get on with it.
Until the next thing that is.
Other posts and articles this week about the guidelines:
- Mom-101 is celebrating Happy FTC Disclosure Day
- Boston Mamas: My Editorial Code
- Post Tech, New blogger payola disclosure rules start
- Boston Globe, Product Placement
- Ad Age, New FTC Rules Won’t Deter Celebrity Social-Media Endorsements