Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit


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Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit by SocialMedia.org, edition 2011

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Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit

  1. 1. Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011 EDITION
  2. 2. IntroductionThis document is a series of checklists to help This is an Open Source Documentcompanies, their employees, and their agenciescreate social media policies. This is a living document that will continue to evolve with community feedback andOur goal is not to create or propose new industry participation. Share and change this document asstandards or rules. These checklists are open- much as you like. It is licensed under a Creativesource training tools designed to help educate Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.employees on the appropriate ways to interact Please attribute SocialMedia.org and link towith the social media community and comply www.socialmedia.org/disclosure. We alsowith the law. encourage you to share your changes with theWhen we first released the Toolkit in July 2008, group by emailing editor@socialmedia.org.many members of the social media communitysaw these issues as a matter of opinion orintellectual debate. With the FTC’s October Scenarios Addressed2009 release of the Guides Concerning theUse of Endorsements and Testimonials in 1. Disclosure of IdentityAdvertising*, it’s clear that proper social media 2. Personal and Unofficial Social Mediaethics are a matter of law, not personal preference. ParticipationSocialMedia.org’s Three Guides for Safe Social 3. Social Media Outreach CampaignsMedia Outreach summarizes the fundamentalobligations required for marketers to stay safe: 4. Truthfulness 1. Require disclosure and truthfulness in 5. Advocacy Programs social media outreach. 6. Compensation and Incentives 2. Monitor the conversation and correct 7. Agency and Contractor Disclosure misstatements. 8. Vendor Questionnaire 3. Create social media policies and training programs. 9. Monitor and RespondThe FTC has also made it clear that the best way 10. Policies and Trainingto protect your company from legal trouble is by 11. Creative Flexibilityestablishing formal disclosure policies for yourstaff, agencies, and subcontractors. 12. General Best Practices* http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005endorsementguidesfnnotice.pdfSocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 1 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  3. 3. Introduction (continued)Frequently Asked Questions How to Use this ToolkitWhat is the purpose of these guidelines? • The Toolkit is a series of checklists to help you create a social media policy for your • Create a training tool company. • Set a baseline of best practices • Use the checklists to make sure you are • Educate companies that are creating a covering all the key requirements and risk social media policy for the first time factors. • Simplify a complicated topic • Discuss these issues with every department involved in social media: marketing,Are these rules mandatory or binding? communications, legal, HR, sales, customerNo, these are best practices for developing service, etc.your own internal guidelines. SocialMedia.org • Create a social media policy in the formis not a trade association or standards body, that best fits your organization’s specificso we don’t have the mandate or authority to needs and operations. The format isn’tset binding rules. We are a community that important. It can be a stand-alone policy orenables companies to learn from each other it can be integrated into existing policies.and collaboratively develop best practice • Create a training program to share therecommendations. results with your entire company.Are you regulating social media? • Share your policies with your agencies,No, not at all. This is an open-source training tool consultants, and contractors and insist thatfor companies that want to learn the right way to they meet or exceed your standards.interact with social media. We are teaching and • The Toolkit is not a policy or ethics code.sharing our experiences. SocialMedia.org is not an association, standards, or enforcement organization.What is SocialMedia.org’s role?We are a community of big brands that shareinsights and experiences with each other. Wedrafted this document to make it easier to shareour learnings with everyone.How does this relate to the FTC’s rules?The FTC specifically recommends that companiescreate a formal social media policy. This Toolkithelps you do just that. The checklists here willhelp you ensure that you have all your basescovered.Are you accepting feedback?Yes. We welcome and invite all interested partiesto add their opinion and contribute towardimproving the guidelines. We’ll continue toupdate the Toolkit based on community feedback.SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 2 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  4. 4. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 1:Disclosure of IdentityFocus: Best practices for how employees and agencies acting as official corporaterepresentatives disclose their identity when using social media.When communicating via social media on behalf of our company or on topics related to the business of ourcompany, we will: 1. Disclose who we are, who we work for, and 7. Properly use pseudonyms and role any other relevant affiliations from the accounts: very first encounter. a. (Option A) Never use a false or obscured 2. Disclose any business/client relationship identity or pseudonym. if we are communicating on behalf of b. (Option B) If aliases or role accounts are another party. used for employee privacy, security, or 3. Ensure that all disclosure meets the other business reasons, these identities minimum legal standard by being a) clear will clearly indicate the organization and conspicuous, b) understandable by the represented and provide means for two- average reader, and c) clearly visible within way communications with that alias. the relevant content. 8. Provide a means of communicating 4. Require all employees to disclose their with our company in order to verify our employer when using social media to involvement in a particular item of social communicate on behalf of the company or media content. about company-related topics. 9. Instruct all employees, agencies, and 5. Make certain that disclosure is sufficient so advocates with whom we have a formal that the average reader understands that relationship on these disclosure policies our company is responsible for the content, and require them to comply. while they are reading the content. 6. Comply with all laws and regulations regarding disclosure of identity.SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 3 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  5. 5. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 2:Personal and Unofficial Social Media ParticipationFocus: Best practices for employees who talk about company-related issues at any timein their personal social media participation.For personal social media interactions: 1. If employees write anything related to the 3. Employees will specifically clarify which business of their employer on personal post or comments are their own opinions pages, posts, and comments, they will vs. official corporate statements. clearly identify their business affiliation. 4. Writing which does not mention work- 2. The manner of disclosure can be flexible related topics does not need to mention the as long as it is a) clear and conspicuous, employment relationship. b) understandable by the average reader, 5. If employees post or comment and c) clearly visible within the relevant anonymously, they should not discuss content. (Example disclosure methods matters related to the business of their could include: usernames that include employer. If employer-related topics are the company name, or a statement in mentioned, they should disclose their the post or comment itself, “I work for affiliation with the company. __<company>__ and this is my personal opinion.”)SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 4 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  6. 6. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 3:Social Media Outreach CampaignsFocus: Best practices for how businesses interact with external bloggers, social mediasites, advocates, and communities.When communicating to the social media community on behalf of our company, we will: 1. Comply with all laws and regulations 6. Never take action contrary to the specific regarding disclosure of identity. boundaries, terms and conditions, and community guidelines set by each site, 2. Disclose who we are, who we work for, and social network, or community. any other relevant affiliations from the very first encounter. 7. Not use services or technologies for mass- posting comments. 3. Proactively ask the recipient of the outreach to be transparent and 8. Use extreme care when communicating fully disclose their relationship and with minors or using social networks communications with our company. intended for minors. 4. Instruct them on the importance of 9. Contractually guarantee that any third- disclosure and ask them to meet or exceed party outreach program we participate in our disclosure guidelines. meets or exceeds our internal standards. 5. Never use off-topic or misplaced posts, comments, or tags for promotional intent.SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 5 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  7. 7. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 4:TruthfulnessFocus: Best practices for ensuring truthfulness and honesty in all social mediacommunications, publications, and interactions.When communicating via social media, or asking others to communicate via social media on our behalf,we will: 1. Always be truthful. 6. Insist that all opinions shared with the public express the honest and authentic 2. Ensure that information and claims opinion of the consumer or advocate provided to advocates, consumers, and without manipulation or falsification. social media sites are factual, honest, and accurate. 7. Ensure that all individuals who are speaking for us are free to form their own 3. Never ask someone else to deceive readers opinions and share all feedback, including for us. negative feedback. 4. Never ask advocates to write something they do not believe. 5. Never ask advocates to endorse a product they have not used personally or create any other form of false endorsement.SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 6 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  8. 8. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 5:Advocacy ProgramsFocus: Best practices for disclosure when working with evangelists, advocates, or othermembers of a formal grassroots social media or word of mouth program.In order to ensure full disclosure when working with advocates in a formal program, we will: 1. Instruct advocates to disclose any formal 4. Provide formal training to the advocates or long-term relationship they have with about proper disclosure practices. us, including participation in any advocacy 5. Discontinue relationships with advocates if programs or campaigns. they fail to disclose their relationship with 2. Instruct advocates to fully disclose any us. and all benefits, access, information, 6. Require that any intermediary helping or anything else received as a result of us reach advocates is requiring their participation that would not be provided to downstream contacts to meet or exceed the general public. our standards. 3. Ensure that all disclosure meets the 7. Contractually guarantee that any third- minimum legal standard by being a) clear party outreach program we participate in and conspicuous, b) understandable by the meets or exceeds our internal standards. average reader, and c) clearly visible within the relevant content.SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 7 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  9. 9. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 6:Compensation and IncentivesFocus: Best practices for disclosure when providing incentives to bloggers or othersocial media advocates.When providing advocates with any form of compensation such as rewards, incentives, promotional items,gifts, samples, or review items, we will: 1. Instruct advocates to fully disclose the 5. Communicate these policies clearly to the source and nature of any compensation advocate in advance and require that they received. follow the policies in any resulting social media communications. 2. Ensure that all disclosure meets the minimum legal standard by being a) clear 6. Communicate that advocates will only use and conspicuous, b) understandable by the their own words to express their honest average reader, and c) clearly visible within personal opinions. Advocates who receive the relevant content. compensation or samples are not obligated to comment at all, and they are free to 3. Discontinue relationships with advocates if comment in a positive, negative, or neutral they fail to disclose their relationship with fashion. us and any compensation received. 7. Clearly separate advertising from editorial. 4. Set a formal policy on disposition of Paid posts, comments, or reviews should incentives. Examples of such policies be considered advertisements. They must include: clearly be labeled as such. At no time • Review products can be returned at their should paid advertisements appear to be own discretion. social media content. Example: Paying for a blog post is deceptive because it is • Review products must be returned or disguising advertising as editorial content. paid for at fair market value. Even with disclosure, the average reader • Items of nominal value (low cost product would assume it is a blog post containing samples or consumables) may be kept. the personal opinion of the author. • Review products should be returned, 8. Not manipulate advertising, link-trading, paid for, or retained by the blogger or affiliate programs to impact blogger or social media advocate based on income or traffic. standards for the specific industry. (Examples: restaurant reviewers pay for the meal; tech reviewers return the product; hotels provide complimentary stays.)SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 8 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  10. 10. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 7:Agency and Contractor DisclosureFocus: Best practices for social media vendors, agencies, and subcontractors that act onbehalf of a company.When using external agencies or personnel to communicate on our behalf, we will: 1. Formally instruct agencies and all 5. Inform our staff and agencies that the FTC personnel working on behalf of our has indicated the client is fully responsible company on our disclosure requirements. and liable for all inappropriate actions of their agencies, their subcontractors, and 2. Require agencies and agency personnel the advocates they recruit. to meet or exceed our internal disclosure requirements. 6. Publicly acknowledge when our agency and/or related parties act contrary to these 3. Require agencies to enforce these policies and quickly take corrective action requirements on their subcontractors. where possible. 4. Require agencies and their personnel 7. Always discuss and secure formal to disclose their relationship with our agreement on these practices before company in a clear and conspicuous entering into a business relationship with manner when conducting social media an agency involved in social media. outreach.SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 9 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  11. 11. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 8:Vendor QuestionnaireFocus: Questions to ask a social media vendor that may reveal a potential ethicsproblem.Before working with a social media agency, we will ask: 1. Does the agency have social media policies 9. Do they forbid the use of expressly and ethics training programs? deceptive practices, such as impersonating consumers; concealing true identities; 2. Has every person assigned to our account lying about factors such as age, gender, received formal social media disclosure race, familiarity with or use of product; or training? other circumstances intended to enhance 3. Do they have procedures to train all the credibility of the advocate while subcontractors (and subcontractors’ deliberately misleading the public? employees) assigned to our account? 10. Have they previously engaged in unethical 4. Do they have reporting and operational practices? If they have ever engaged in review procedures in place that will ensure such practices in the past, do they now full compliance with all social media prohibit them, and will they guarantee disclosure standards? that they will not use employees who have engaged in fraudulent practices to work on 5. Do their personnel always disclose their our behalf? relationship with us? 11. Can we rely on them to raise the bar on 6. Do they forbid the blurring of identification social media ethics, or do we need to in ways that might confuse or mislead monitor them or their subcontractors consumers? closely? 7. Do they keep detailed records of social 12. Do they meet or exceed our high standards media outreach, contacts, posts, and of ethical behavior and practice, and are comments by their people? they willing to provide written guarantees 8. Do they have a plan to follow up on all for their own work as well as that of all outreach to ensure resulting posts and subcontractors? comments are properly disclosed?SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 10 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  12. 12. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 9:Monitor and RespondFocus: Best practices to monitor the results of social media outreach to ensure properdisclosure and truthfulness, including best practices for good-faith efforts to attempt tocorrect misstatements and misrepresentations.In order to correctly monitor our social media outreach for disclosure and factual errors, we will: 1. Monitor the statements by our advocates 5. Keep a record of all attempts to correct that result from our communications and errors. programs. 6. Discontinue any relationship with an 2. Keep a record of advocates contacted by us, advocate or representative who repeatedly as well as the information and incentives fails to meet disclosure or truthfulness provided to them. requirements. 3. Attempt to correct any misrepresentations 7. Set a policy that “we didn’t know” is not or inaccurate statements that result from acceptable at our company. our outreach. 4. Attempt to correct any missing disclosure by our advocates or representatives.SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 11 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  13. 13. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 10:Policies and TrainingFocus: Best practices for creating a social media policy and ensuring that all of ouremployees and representatives are fully trained.We will: 1. Maintain and enforce a formal social media 4. Educate employees about when personal policy. use of social media requires disclosure. 2. Train all employees who use social media 5. Track employee use of social media for as a part of their jobs. activity that violates our social media policy. 3. Train employees about appropriate use of social media not directly related to their 6. Make social media training a part of our jobs. standard HR procedure.SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 12 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  14. 14. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 11:Creative FlexibilityFocus: Best practices for artistic/entertainment situations where temporarily obscuringthe source of social media communications is necessary and appropriate.Disclosure may be delayed temporarily to allow for creative freedom if it meets all of the followingcriteria: 1. The content is clearly part of a game, Example: Creating blogs to promote a movie. mystery, or other project that is intended • CORRECT: An obviously fictional blog for entertainment purposes. where someone writes that they may have 2. It is apparent to the average reader that discovered aliens in their house to promote there is a business/marketing purpose to a science fiction movie. the project. • CORRECT: A blog is “written” by a character 3. The purpose of the delayed disclosure is that is clearly fictional. not to enable corporate representatives to • CORRECT: Clues in a mystery or alternate- pose as consumers. reality game. 4. The sponsor will be revealed within a • INCORRECT: A blog where an author is reasonable period of time. impersonating an uninvolved consumer and writing: “I’d love to go see this movie.”SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 13 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
  15. 15. Disclosure Best Practices Checklist 12:General Best PracticesFocus: Best practices for creating an overall atmosphere of ethical, transparentdisclosure.To follow the spirit of our policy, we will: 1. Err on the side of over-disclosure. If a 4. Ensure that the agencies and contractors reader would be surprised to discover a fact working for us are meeting or exceeding later, we will disclose it up front. our standards, not asking us to lower them. 2. Use the space available for improved 5. Ask: Would we be uncomfortable if our disclosure. When space is limited (such as family and friends were involved in this on Twitter), disclosure may be minimal, campaign? but for media with no space limits (such 6. Ask: Is there anything about this project we as on blogs, Facebook, or comments on would be embarrassed to discuss publicly? other forums) we will provide complete disclosure in the comment. 7. Ask: Would we consider this action with any other media, or are we looking for a 3. Make certain that all disclosure is social media loophole for a questionable sufficient so that the average reader action? clearly understands that our company is responsible for the content we initiate, while they are reading the content.SocialMedia.org’s Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit 2011Page 14 of 14 Issued under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License