Social media marketing has become the latest “in” thing for marketers to do. So it should be of great concern to learn that such tactics could be a marketing “grey area” or, at worse, downright illegal. SEOmoz has an article that discusses the legality of social media marketing from a U.S. perspective. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has guidelines about disclosure for paid endorsements, as part of its rules about “stealth marketing”. Basically, this means that if you’ve been hired to say something good about a product or service, then you need to state that commercial relationship obviously.
This concern couldn’t come at a better time. Social media marketing is picking up steam in Asia Pacific. In Singapore, there have been many so-called “blogger events” to promote new products and/or services to key local bloggers. While the bloggers are usually not paid in cash, they could be paid in kind, e.g. sample products and contests (does free food count?). Depending on how strict the court wants to be, that could be construed as being paid to endorse.
Of course, the first question you should be asking is: is there a law or ruling in the local market that is similar to the FTC’s stance? I’m not a lawyer nor a legal expert, so I don’t have a clear answer to this. But I also realise that I — and any modern marketer — should be aware of it now.
So to all the legal mavens who are reading this, what do you think: is social media marketing legal in the Asia Pacific region?