SOCIAL MEDIA ENDORSEMENT POLICY
Purpose and Scope
Bleep, LLC is committed to transparency and honesty in all of its advertising messages and promotional communications with consumers. One of the most common ways to advertise and market products and services in social media is to use third party endorsements. Like other types of advertising, endorsements must be truthful and not misleading. Consumers must understand when a social media endorsement is sponsored by us.
This Policy applies to all agencies, independent contractors, speakers, writers, bloggers, talent, influencers, and any other individual or entity engaged in promotional communications on behalf of Bleep on social media or other non-traditional media. This Policy also applies to our employees and agencies who manage these individuals and entities and employees who promote the company and its products/brands on their personal social media accounts.
Defining an Endorser Covered by This Policy
An individual or entity communicating on social media or other non-traditional media is covered by this Policy if its promotional messages about Bleep or our products/brands are sponsored by us (“Sponsored Endorser“). If the individual or entity is acting independently, it is not subject to this Policy.
A message is sponsored by us if we have a material connection with the individual or entity. A material connection is a tie to us which if known to consumers might make consumers question the credibility of the endorser or materially affect the weight consumers place on the endorsement. It puts the endorser’s independence in question. For example, Bleep creates a material connection if we do any of the following either directly or through an advertising agency, public relations firm, or other third party:
- Hire an agency to blog, post, or serve as a community manager on our behalf (both the agency and its employees then become Sponsored Endorsers).
- Enter into an agreement with an individual to blog or post.
- Pay an individual to blog or post.
- Provide free accommodations or travel to an individual for a company event or experience.
- Provide discounts, sweepstakes entries, or other incentives to an individual.
- Provide an individual with free prizes for giveaways or sweepstakes on social media platforms.
- Provide an individual with free samples to review on social media platforms.
- Provide an individual with free samples after that person has blogged or posted independently, especially if providing the free samples creates the expectation of additional free samples (which makes the individual a Sponsored Endorser going forward, not retroactively).
- Engage affiliate marketers to advertise, blog, endorse, or sell on our behalf (making the affiliates and their employees Sponsored Endorsers).
Bleep can turn our everyday consumers into Sponsored Endorsers by:
- Establishing a consumer marketing program that gives members free products, coupons, discounts, or other benefits.
- Providing incentives to consumers to review our products.
- Requiring sweepstakes or contest participants to post photos of our products as part of their entries.
This list, though comprehensive, is not exhaustive. Check with the legal department for any questions about whether Bleep behavior or actions has created or will create a material connection with a third party.
Note that Bleep employees have a material connection to Bleep so are also considered to be Sponsored Endorsers. Employee behavior as to use of social media is addressed more comprehensively in a separate employee policy. However, this Policy requires employees to clearly and conspicuously disclose their connection to us when promoting Bleep or our products /brands on social media.
Sponsored Endorsers Must Comply with Our Standards of Conduct
With respect to promotional statements or other claims made on social media platforms and on other non-traditional media about Bleep and our products /brands, Sponsored Endorsers must adhere to the following principles:
- They may only make statements that:
- reflect their honest beliefs, opinions, or experiences based on their own personal experiences; and
- are transparent about their connection to us.
- They may not:
- make deceptive or misleading claims to consumers about our products or services, or our competitors’ products or services;
- make any claims about our products or services, or our competitors’ products or services, that are not backed up by evidence;
- disclose any of our confidential information;
- engage in any communication that is defamatory or infringes upon the intellectual property, privacy, or publicity rights of others;
- offer for sale or solicit products on behalf of Bleep;
- make offensive comments that have the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating or hostile environment;
- use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or other offensive language; and
- make any comments or post any content that in any way promotes unsafe activities that could lead to an unsafe situation involving Bleep’s consumers or other individuals.
- They must adhere to:
- any additional guidelines provided by Bleep, such as product/brand specific program requirements.
Sponsored Endorsers must also refrain from creating fake followers or engagement on social media platforms, such as:
- Buying followers.
- Using bots to grow audience size by automating account creation, following, commenting, and liking.
Disclosing a Material Connection Clearly and Conspicuously
When posting about our products/brands, Bleep requires Sponsored Endorsers to disclose their material connection to us clearly and conspicuously. If a Sponsored Endorser has multiple material connections to us, the full extent should be disclosed.
This policy does not require specific language to disclose a material connection, but Sponsored Endorsers must communicate the material connection effectively so that consumers:
- Can easily find it.
- Can easily understand it.
- Obtain sufficient information from it to make a judgment about the credibility of the endorsement.
Consult Appendix A to this Policy for examples of language that successfully communicate a material connection and language that does not do so.
To ensure a disclosure is clear and conspicuous, appropriate consideration should be given to the limitations and nature of the platform being used. Sponsored Endorsers must:
- Ensure the disclosure is:
- well-placed so it can be easily noticed; and
- prominent so it can be easily read.
- Avoid burying the disclosure:
- in a bio;
- below the fold;
- in a hyperlink, like a “Legal” or “Disclosure” button; or
- among a series of hashtags, other disclosures, or general copy.
- Superimpose a material connection disclosure on images, including on Snapchat and Instagram Stories. The disclosure should be:
- easy to notice and read in the time that followers have to look at the image; and
- well-contrasted against the image.
- In video posts, including podcasts:
- place the disclosure both within the video itself, and in the description of the video; and
- display the disclosure long enough for a consumer to be able to read and understand it.
- In Instagram posts, disclose a material connection before the “More” button.
- For a live stream, repeat the disclosure as needed to ensure that consumers see it or keep it posted throughout the live stream.
- If the posts are part of an online chat or tweets, or a similar thread, make the disclosure clearly in the first entry into the conversation thread, and then add to subsequent entries at ten (10) entry intervals depending on the media and the length of the thread.
- Disclose the material connection even when just tagging a product/brand in a photo.
- For a television or radio talk show appearance, disclose the material connection verbally when promoting our products/brands.
If we ask consumers to promote our products /brands on social media in exchange for the chance to win a prize, the official rules must require entrants to disclose the fact that the entrant’s post is an entry into a contest or sweepstakes. Whether the products/brands are promoted in a text, a hashtag, a photo, or a video, the entry post must include some clear and conspicuous indicator that the consumer has received an entry in a promotion in exchange for the post. For example, the official rules could require entrants to use a specific hashtag disclosing that the post is a sweepstakes or contest entry. Failure to make the disclosure should disqualify the entry.
We should avoid encouraging endorsements that use features that do not allow for clear and conspicuous disclosures, such as likes, Pins, or shares, if the absence of that disclosure is likely to be misleading.
If we run a social media endorsement campaign outside the US and the product/brand is sold in the US, we must require a disclosure if the posts are likely to be seen by and to affect US consumers.
A social media platform may have a required tool or feature for paid endorsements. Although these tools or features must be used to comply with the platform’s rules, they should not be relied on alone to meet FTC disclosure requirements.
What We Must Provide to Sponsored Endorsers
When Bleep engages a Sponsored Endorser, either directly or through a service provider, the Sponsored Endorser must sign either:
- An agreement outlining the business terms of the arrangement and the guidelines set forth in this Policy.
- A statement agreeing to comply with the guidelines set forth in this Policy.
Bleep must also provide Sponsored Endorsers with:
- Message points, facts sheets, or other similar talking points about the products/brand at issue, that do not necessarily prescribe what the endorser should say, but include:
- a list of claims about the company’s product that the company has substantiated; and
- guidance on what the Sponsored Endorser cannot say about the company’s products.
- Links to or copies of FTC guidance on endorsements (which can be found on the FTC’s website), specifically:
- Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (Endorsement Guides).
- The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People are Asking.
- The Do’s and Don’ts for Social Media Influencers.
- Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers, and its associated video: Do you endorse things on social media?
- General guidance on the FTC Endorsement Guides and encouragement to educate themselves on all FTC endorsement guidance. For example, inform Sponsored Endorsers that:
- they should not assume their followers know about their connection to us;
- opinions should be based on their own honest beliefs and experiences;
- they should refrain from making statements about our products that are measurable, other than those on the fact sheets we have provided; and
- any comparisons must be based on actual, personal experiences with all products being compared because they should not extrapolate beyond personal experiences. For example, a Sponsored Endorser could say “I liked the Company product the best of the products I tried,” but should not say “No other product is better than the Company product” because the endorser probably has not tried all the products in our category.
We should advise Sponsored Endorsers that we plan to monitor their posts to ensure the accuracy of any measurable claims they make about our productsand that they have adequately disclosed their material connection to us.
Monitoring Sponsored Endorsers
Employees responsible for Sponsored Endorser relationships or campaigns must regularly monitor the postings of Sponsored Endorsers, either directly or through their agencies. Employees must also ensure that:
- Every Sponsored Endorser campaign or relationship has monitoring responsibilities clearly identified. If one of our service providers is to conduct the monitoring:
- it must be given appropriate training on this Policy; and
- its contract or statement of work must make it responsible and liable for monitoring.
- Sponsored Endorsers:
- always disclose their material connection to Bleep in a clear and conspicuous manner;
- are not making unsubstantiated claims about our products; and
- are otherwise complying with this Policy and any other guidance we have provided.
- Contest and sweepstakes entries that promote our products/brands in social media are included in the monitoring, and entries that fail to use a material connection disclosure are disqualified.
- Monitoring of a Sponsored Endorser continues for a minimum of two (2) weeks past the end of our relationship (for example, the contract expiration date or the last time we sent free samples). For longer campaigns or relationships, it may be necessary to monitor for more than four (4) weeks.
When a Sponsored Endorser Fails to Comply with This Policy
Bleep must correct any failure to disclose a material connection or communication of any unsubstantiated claims by a Sponsored Endorser. The employee team responsible for the Sponsored Endorser must take the following steps:
- If an agency or other third party manages or is otherwise involved with the Sponsored Endorser relationship, alert the third party to the issue.
- Consult with the legal department and corporate communications/consumer relations to determine whether a correction is needed, and how best to make it.
- If needed, require the Sponsored Endorser to make the correction or post the correction on the Sponsored Endorser’s post or page directly.
- Determine if it is necessary to:
- withhold payment from the Sponsored Endorser; or
- terminate the relationship with the Sponsored Endorser.
All written agreements with Sponsored Endorsers must give Bleep the right to take any of these corrective measures for noncompliance with this Policy.
Training on This Policy
All employees and Sponsored Endorsers must have knowledge of this Policy. The following employees, individuals, functions, and third parties are required to receive in-depth training on this Policy:
- Bleep marketers.
- Corporate Communications employees.
- Creative agencies and other third-party service providers who manage relationships with any of our Sponsored Endorsers. Employees responsible for hiring or managing these third parties must ensure they receive the training.
- Sponsored Endorsers expected to have a long-term relationship with us.
Administration of This Policy
The Legal Department is responsible for the administration of this Policy. All employees are responsible for consulting and complying with the most current version of this Policy. If you have any questions regarding this Policy, please contact the Legal Department.
Acknowledgment of Receipt and Review
I acknowledge that I have received and read a copy of this policy and understand and agree to comply with its terms. I understand that Bleep expressly reserves the right to change, modify, or delete the provisions of this policy at any time without notice.
BEST PRACTICES FOR DISCLOSURE LANGUAGE
As stated in the Policy, Sponsored Endorsers are required to disclose material connections to Bleep. Listed below is sample disclosure language. Alternative but substantively comparable language may also be used where appropriate. Although Bleep does not require specific disclosure language, it does prohibit certain hashtags and other disclosure practices specifically found by the FTC as insufficient. The goal for a material connection disclosure is to ensure it is readily seen and understood by consumers and accurately describes our relationship with the Sponsored Endorser.
Statements about the material connection should identify the nature of the connection, such as:
- For receipt of free products:
- I received free products or samples from Bleep;
- Bleep sent me free products or samples to review;
- Bleep gave me this product to try; or
- Thanks Bleep for the free products or samples.
- For paid Sponsored Endorsers:
- I was paid by Bleep;
- I was hired by Bleep to post about its products;
- I have partnered with Bleep to promote its products; or
- I am a paid brand ambassador for Bleep.
- For receipt of travel and accommodations:
- Bleep paid for my travel and hotel to help prompt its products.
- For receipt of a prize to be given away in a sweepstakes or contest:
- Bleep is providing the prize(s) for this program at no cost to me. This program is not administered or sponsored by Bleep or its affiliates, but solely by Sponsored Endorser’s name.
- For incentivized consumer reviews:
- I received a sweepstakes entry/discount/coupon for making this review.
- I am part of Bleep’s program that gives me free samples/coupons/discounts; or
- Reviewers on this page received a sweepstakes entry/discount/coupon for making their reviews.
- For other material connections:
- “Paid ad”; or
- “Ad:” (this would go at the beginning of the statement to indicate the statement is an ad).
- For television or radio talk show appearances where our product/brand will be promoted, a Sponsored Endorser should verbally make the material connection to us known, such as stating:
- Bleep gave me this _____ (product or sample) _____;
- I was paid by Bleep to…; or
- I am working with Bleep to….
If using a hashtag to identify a material connection, make it unambiguous, such as:
Avoid ambiguous hashtags to identify material connections, such as:
Additionally, if a Sponsored Endorser has posted a “Disclosure and Relationships Statement” section on their blog, website, profile page, or similar site, the statement should:
- Fully disclose how the endorser is working with us.
- Disclose how the endorser works with other companies generally.
- List any conflicts of interest that may affect the credibility of the sponsored or paid reviews.
For Bleep employees:
- Be clear about the employer-employee relationship with us, such as:
- I am an employee of Bleep;
- I work for Bleep;
- #Bleep_Employee; or
- My company ….
- Do not use an ambiguous hashtag like #ee or even #employee.