Nordstrom Butts Heads With FTC Over Social Media Ad Disclosures

By William Peacock, Esq. on March 27, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Nordstrom’s “TweetUp” promotion is pretty standard fare, as far as stores’ social media campaigns go. When a store is set to open, they’ll have a preview day for bloggers, the Twitterati, Pinterizers, and others of that ilk. The social media elite who are invited are given gifts, including $50 gift cards, to write or tweet about the event.

That’s all kosher. Many companies do it, including McDonald’s ongoing “mom blogger” campaign. What Nordstrom neglected, however, was to tell the bloggers to provide the requisite disclaimers about gifts received, etc.

This is an area that the FTC is increasingly monitoring. Earlier this month, they released updated guidelines for "Dot Com Disclosures," which essentially require that social media wizards provide easy to understand disclosures when they are tweeting, blogging, or otherwise writing about a sponsored product or advertisement.

If your company uses social media to promote your brand, company, or products, we'd recommend examining the new rules in depth. The FTC, much like the Wu-Tang Clan, isn't something you want to mess with. There are also rules regarding endorsements and testimonials worth perusing, though those haven't been updated in a few years.

What's the short version of the rules? Disclaimers should be clear, concise, and easy (and likely) to be seen. In limited character mediums, like Twitter, the FTC recommends a clear link to a disclaimer, plus disclosing that the tweet is an advertisement.

As for social media campaigns that involve third-parties, like Nordstrom's "TweetUp" and McDonald's mom blog initiative, the company should clearly notify social media influencers of their responsibility to disclose the goodies that they received for attending.

For Nordstrom, the FTC decided not to pursue enforcement action. They received only a warning, as a number of the attendees did disclose the freebies and Nordstrom updated their social media policies to comply with the FTC's concerns.

For your company, an ounce of prevention is probably a better strategy. Review the new rules and revise your social media policies and promotions accordingly, as the FTC might not be as generous to other companies now that they've released updated disclosure requirements.

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