Social Media Users Can Earn Money, Must Disclose Ads

woman_laptopMany social media users want to take advantage of their and their friends’ online presence and make some money. They share a lot of content, so why not share something that, if clicked, will reward the user? People can do that, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), but they have to say very clearly that it is an ad, using designated words.

Amy Polletro is an example of a social media network user who decided to take it to the next level. She has a passion for fashion and she started to post pictures of clothes she finds on Beso.com to her social media accounts.

“You share your finds and your friends and followers click, you share in our monetization engines, so you make money,” said Elise Loehnen with Beso.com.

Clicks brought her USD 6.70 in the first few weeks she used the service. Not a lot of money, but a start. But the Federal Trade Commission has some concerns in what the intentions behind the posts are:

“It’s critical that the readers understand that they’re being paid because you always want to know if there’s any potential bias or you want to add that to the credibility or weight that you give that recommendation,” said Mary Engle with the FTC.

So, when users post such promotional materials on their accounts, they should use the designated hashtags and keywords such as “paid,” “ad,” or “spon” for sponsored.

“When you set up the links you don’t have to let your friends know that you’re getting paid for it. I’m just an average person. I’m not a super blogger, I’m not a celebrity,” said Polletro.

The FTC disagrees.

“It’s almost like a huge ocean wave that’s coming and there are going to be more and more programs like this and I’m not sure how the FTC is really going to be able to sort of keep a handle on it,” said Loehnen.

However, Polletro sees sharing such photos as something fun, thus she doesn’t think it’s necessary to identify those posts as advertising.

Sure, the idea of users being able to monetize their online presence isn’t a bad one, but theoretically at least, social media should be about real recommendations, real experiences and not content shared as recommended but with a promotional intent.

Perhaps studies on how many people would click on a photo shared as a recommendation but not marked as an ad vs. how many people would click on it if it was clearly identified as a promotional content are needed. Yet the rules seem to catch on to all channels – advertisements should be disclosed.

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