Heads Up! FTC Guides & Some Risk Factors to Look Out For
Guest post by Nadine Boisnier, Compliance Officer, Amanda Vega Consulting
The recent revisions to the FTC guides concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials has posed some questions as to what people can expect from the changes and how this affects active participants in social media. As you begin to build deeper relationships with your Credit Union customers online, here are some guidelines on what the new FTC guidelines mean for you.
The basic FTC changes came into effect due to the emergence, popularity and increased growth of social media. (The guidelines were last updated in 1980). The regulations were updated due to the notion that the lines have been blurred between what an advertisement is and the motives behind the use of social media. There were instances of non-disclosure from companies using bloggers to post positive reviews while receiving cash or gifts as incentives. Regulators do not agree that these types of postings are unbiased reviews. Their goal is to inform the public to understand the difference and to make sure there is full transparency.
Some important points to remember: Any conflicts of interest must be disclosed in postings including Twitter tweets and profiles. Be upfront with any connections or relationships you have with the company or Credit Union branch you are writing on behalf of. Other updates to the regulations include the disclosure of any company-sponsored research, stricter liability for celebrity endorsements, no more ³safe harbor² for testimonials; meaning, the term ³results may vary² is no longer sufficient when making broad claims, and disclosing results that consumers can generally expect. Remember most importantly to be straightforward and transparent.
In addition to these guidelines, Credit Unions should be cognizant of additional risks that can affect their outreach to the public. Make sure your employees do not improperly use social media tools. For example, impulse messaging can be dangerous, so stop and think about the repercussions of your post or tweet. From a Credit Union perspective, employees can be a threat if they post information that could impact negatively on their brand.
As you are building a sense of community online, make sure to include customer care in the process. You must be careful how you do this since you may deal with disgruntled customers who use Twitter to discuss a negative experience. You should avoid a back and forth match with an unhappy customer and take the conversation offline. Be sure to offer them traditional customer care channels. Other basic rules include, accessing the urls in tweets with care. Do not click on links from people you are unfamiliar with.
Also, look out for people who use stalking techniques to try to social engineering information. Most importantly, make sure proprietary business and customer information is protected. Having a strong policy in place for employees to follow is key. Every organization should have a strong policy in place that clearly states the guidelines of how it should be used by employees.