How FTC Guides Affect Social Media Marketing

Mike Hays asked: Lynn, have you seen any reference in the Dec 1 guidline changes as to what you can say on social media sites i.e. Twitter?

I reread your blog posts as well as the FTC pdf doc and I only saw one reference to social media having to do with a celebrity posting to a social media site. I searched the FTC site and didn't find anything...

The revised endorsement and testimonial guides define an endorsement as:

...any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser...

An advertising message is defined as:

For the purpose of these guides, an advertising message is a review or statements made by individuals or companies that have a relationship with the merchant. That relationship could be free product, payment, or commission on sales made.

A product review written with no relationship to the merchant or company is not considered an advertising message, or an endorsement or testimonial. It's simply a review.

Example 8 in the document linked to above explains this clearly:

A consumer who regularly purchases a particular brand of dog food decides one day to purchase a new, more expensive brand made by the same manufacturer. She writes in her personal blog that the change in diet has made her dog’s fur noticeably softer and shinier, and that in her opinion, the new food definitely is worth the extra money. This posting would not be deemed an endorsement under the Guides.

Assume that rather than purchase the dog food with her own money, the consumer gets it for free because the store routinely tracks her purchases and its computer has generated a coupon for a free trial bag of this new brand. Again, her posting would not be deemed an endorsement under the Guides.

Assume now that the consumer joins a network marketing program under which she periodically receives various products about which she can write reviews if she wants to do so. If she receives a free bag of the new dog food through this program, her positive review would be considered an endorsement under the Guides.

Complying with the FTC Guides in Social Media Marketing

You are expected to disclose your relationship with the merchant in all advertising messages, including your social media marketing campaigns.

Let's take the case of my book reviews as an example. I purchase a lot of books on, and I also get a number of free press copies from authors in the mail. They send me the press copy as part of their marketing campaign, in hopes that I will blog about it and/or discuss it on my social networks.

As an affiliate marketer, if I do mention the book I also include an Amazon affiliate link so that I will earn a commission if my readers also decide to get a copy.

Prior to writing my review, I might mention the book to my social networks - probably via Facebook and Twitter. I might post an update along the lines of:

"Just received a press copy of XYZ Book in the mail. Looks interesting! Will post my review soon - Anyone else reading it?"

I would also disclose that in my actual review. It may be a review copy of a software program, the company may have contacted me and offered me a virtual tour of their features, or I may have purchased the product outright myself to review and test it. Either way, you can casually work that into your review so that your readers fully understand your relationship (or lack of) with the merchant.

On the domain where you publish your review, you should have a disclosure statement regarding affiliate links that can be easily found by your readers. A link in the sidebar or footer is the norm for these types of statement or site policy pages.

Using Affiliate Links in Social Media Marketing

Sometimes we will include a direct affiliate link in a social media messages, such as a Tweet or a Facebook Update. While the FTC did not specifically address this in their guides, I've put a lot of thought into how I will personally handle this once the Guides go into effect on Dec 1st...

Back when I was doing pay-per-click marketing heavily, Google used to require that we disclose direct affiliate links in Google Adwords ads by using (aff) or -aff within our actual ad.

My first thought was that this same method may be a good idea within social media updates, as good measure. As an example, I might tweet:

Reading Socialnomics by Erik Qualman, awesome book! Will publish my review soon. -aff

In a recent Facebook discussion about Netflix, I included my Netflix affiliate link when I started the conversation. I disclosed that it was my referral link, and the discussion continued on with 20+ comments...

I am more likely to use a link to a blog post or a page on my website that discusses the product or book in more detail, versus a direct affiliate, and so your site disclosure will suffice in most cases. But when using a direct affiliate link, it wouldn't hurt to disclose that in some way within the update.

You might also include a simple disclosure statement on your social media property. With Twitter you could integrate this into the background image of your profile. On Facebook you could add a simple statement in the About area on your Info page.


About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. DeAnna Troupe says

    I've been wondering about how to do this on twitter with affiliate links. On FB and my blogs, I've just started telling people in parentheses that said link is an affiliate link. I like using the aff on twitter... That doesn't take up much space.

  2. Your thought on the inclusion of "aff" in tweets is original and very instructive. Those three letters, and possibily some variation thereof, will probably gain wide usage in Twitter.

    • I've been doing this both on Twitter and Facebook to show through example. If you follow me on either site keep your eye out for those so you can see how I incorporate my "disclosures".

  3. Scott Lovingood says

    I have a question about aff links. What about links to a blog that may later produce an affiliate sale?

    For example points to Simpleology's blog. It is an affiliate link as it tracks incoming visitors but no sale is going to be made by that link. It leads them to a new website. Now Mark is getting ready to launch Simpleology 201 in the new future.

    Do you need to post an aff link for something that doesn't lead to direct income? That one I still struggle with.


    PS If you aren't friends with Lynn on Facebook, you need to be. She is very entertaining :0

    • LOL, Thanks Scott 😉

      It's a referral link now, an affiliate link later - either way, that link represents a relationship with the merchant, and that is what the FTC wants you to disclose. The relationship. So the answer would be yes.

  4. That's great information to know Lynn. I like your approach of being very upfront regardless of what the guidelines say at present. It shows your a person of integrity.

  5. Well, I could use this to post links on my Facebook and Twitter account easily and gain wider response from people. Thanks Lynn for a great post as this.

  6. Great input Lynn. Well, you just made my day even brighter. After reading your article, I realized that putting links in my blogpost or in my website is more helpful than any other methof promoting or marketing other businesses. I will try to do this over my Facebook and Twitter page as well.

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