My sister, a new small business owner, was surprised to learn that a blog is subject to the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for deceptive advertising. I realized that she was likely not alone in her lack of understanding that blogs, website copy and all social media posts used to promote your small business are in fact forms of advertising. As such, all claims must be truthful and cannot deceive your audience. If you make any claims about any products or services you sell, you must be able to substantiate those claims. All businesses, whether big or small are subject to the regulatory guidance and oversight of the FTC.
What is a blog?
A blog very simply is an informational website or journal updated on a regular basis that shares relevant information about your business with your intended audience. Blogs can be highly valuable to any business owner by helping to establish you as a thought leader, improving your SEO, increasing brand awareness, among others. Of course, there can be personal blogs, but if they are monetized with click through advertising, you are subject to the FTC regulations. Any type of advertising that is for “commercial use” is subject to the authority of the FTC. If you wish to maintain a blog purely for personal use and it does not benefit your business or contain any advertising, then it may be exempt from the FTC regulations.
What is the FTC?
The FTC is a bipartisan federal agency with a unique dual mission to protect consumers and promote competition. The FTC protects consumers by stopping unfair, deceptive advertising or fraudulent practices in the marketplace. It conducts investigations, sues companies and individuals that violate the law. For these reasons it is important that if you are conducting any advertising – and all business advertise – that you do so responsibly. And yes, blogs and all of your social media posts are forms of advertising. If you would like to learn more about the FTC, please visit their website.
As you become more successful on social media or your business goes viral, you become what is known as an influencer, or employ influencers to help your social media presence. Did you know that there are FTC guidelines for working with influencers? If you manufacture a branded product and plan to give it away for free to influencers for them to talk about on social media, the FTC says those posts must “clearly and conspicuously” disclosed, so that consumers know there is a relationship between the influencer and the company.
How we can help
We regularly review our clients’ website copy and social media posts to ensure there are no legal issues, including flagging any deceptive advertising claims. We regularly counsel both influencers and the companies that hire them to ensure the proper disclosures are made and draft and review influencer agreements. If you have any questions about advertising law or any of your online activities, please feel free to contact us.
Stacey C. Kalamaras is the founding partner of Kalamaras Law Office, LLC. She has extensive intellectual property experience with a focus on trademarks and copyrights, as well as advertising issues related to promoting clients’ brands. Stacey has been recognized by her peers as a Super Lawyer® for her outstanding knowledge and services in intellectual property law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacey is also the founder and lead instructor of Trademarkabilities™, an online trademark academy for lawyers, whose mission it is to prepare lawyers to be efficient and effective practitioners before the USPTO. To learn more, please visit https://www.trademarkabilities.com/.