Social media marketing guidelines from WOMMA

Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is later today to issue a guide to disclosure in social media marketing. US-based WOMMA is responding to US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) social media guidelines for disclosure of relationships between companies and consumers discussing them and their products or services in social media and social network platforms.

The guide will provide specific recommendations for different channels including blogs, Twitter and other micro-blogging platforms, social networks such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace, podcasts, and video and photo sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr.

I haven’t seen the guidelines yet so can’t comment in detail. It’s expected that WOMMA will attempt to mandate consistent disclosure hash tags on Twitter and social network status update. Personally I’m not convinced by this, there are already ‘standards’ floating around, none of which has really taken off.

A far more sensible recommendation and one that we advocate at Wolfstar is that there should always be an easily accessible link to a page which describes what it’s all about and who is behind it – a rules, transparency and disclosure statement.

WOMMA and the USA is actually lagging somewhat behind the UK and Europe. As over here we’ve had the new Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPR) since May 26, 2008. The FTC guidelines were only introduced in May 2009. The CPRs specifically outlaw ‘falsely representing oneself as a consumer’ and ‘using editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion.’ The ultimate sanction for breach of the CPRs can be jail for directors and senior managers.

Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) In the UK professional organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and trade bodies such as the Internet Advertising Bureau already have guidelines in place.

Word of Mouth UK Association DISCLOSURE: I was a founder member of WOM UK and sat on its governing council for the first year. Wolfstar’s chairman Tim Sinclair was the founder member and set-up WOM UK’s partnership with WOMMA. He also worked pro-bono as WOM UK’s first chief executive to get the membership organisation started. WOM UK has simply adopted WOMMA’s code of conduct.