These days, it seems like everyone is marketing online. From Facebook Pages, Google Adwords, blogs, and more, there are seemingly unlimited options when it comes to promoting your business online. Yet online marketing provides some challenges as well. Since there is some anonymity built into the internet, ethical considerations become even more important.
Here are some guidelines for business owners to remember when advertising and marketing online. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has provided these guidelines to protect businesses and consumers.
- Maintain credibility on the Internet. The honest and ethical practices you maintain in your offline business must also be adhered to online. So be sure that your marketing doesn’t mislead, or contain omissions that prevent consumers from making informed choices. Make sure that people know exactly where they’re going when they click on your ad, and help them feel confident that they’re dealing with an ethical business person.
- All claims must be substantiated, especially concerning health, safety and/or performance. The evidence will depend on the product, the claims and what experts believe necessary. Testimonials and endorsements must reflect typical experiences, unless clearly stated, and cannot be used if the advertiser itself cannot substantiate it. So don’t claim that your product cures a disease if you don’t have a clinical study to back it up. When in doubt, check with your company so you only post what you’re allowed to say.
- Sellers are responsible and liable for all claims about their products or services. If you’re even slightly unsure whether you should say something, you probably shouldn’t. After all, you could cause serious trouble for your business.
- Disclaimers and disclosures must be clearly stated. While there are many facets to this, one important one is that government rules require that you disclose your relationship with any company where you’ll profit through a recommendation. This means that if you recommend a product, people must clearly understand that you’ll make money if people follow your recommendation.
- Advertising directly to children involves special rules. So if you’re sharing your information on a social network where children are allowed, or your products are for children, be sure to check with your company to find out what you can and cannot say legally.
For more information about marketing online legally, visit http://www.ftc.gov. Here you’ll find lots of resources that help protect you, and your customers!
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