Most of us just happily blog-along, with no worries, really. We try to do our best, tell the truth, and use correct punctuation. We don't try to misquote, and do work to give credit where credit is due. These practices, however, will most likely be changing in the near future as the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) looks at plans to regulate viral marketing and blogs.
As part of its review of its advertising guidelines, the FTC is proposing that word-of-mouth marketers and bloggers, as well as people on social-media sites such as Facebook, be held liable for any false statements they make about a product they're promoting, along with the product's marketer. This could present a significant issue for marketers, including the likes of Microsoft, Ford, and Pepsi, who 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.
Luckily, this monitoring will only apply to those who blog and are compensated for reviewing and promoting products. That would NOT be me. (So, if you have any questions regarding my policy, please send me an email...I'll get some good juice going for your business...shh!) The best example currently is Ford's Fiesta plan, where the automaker is giving 100 automobiles to influential bloggers for a six-month review.
The current FTC guidelines in the "Advertising-Practices" divisions are over 30 years old, and even prolific viral advertisers, such as Pepsi, agree that some sort of monitoring is necessary. One of the other items concerning the FTC are TV spots that make grandiose promises for making money or losing weight, and then scroll the words, "Results not typical, Individual Results May Vary" across the bottom of the screen in tiny 7pt type.
Everyone that uses the Internet is minimally aware of various scams and fraudulent business practices that thrive online, so it is surprising that the latest FTC move is coming relatively late. It is not policy yet, though. The FTC will vote this summer, taking the 4A's and PCPC (Personal Care Products Council) comments into consideration.
Once they do get rules implemented, I have a couple sites I want them to look at that are hawking software bots that can break in to profiles on MySpace and Facebook. (Like this one...)