What the FTC’s latest endorsement disclosure actions mean for marketers

Regulatory body addresses influencers’ responsibility in making disclosures and the sufficiency of platforms’ branded-content labeling tools.

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First, the FTC announced its first-ever settlement with social media influencers over a failure to properly disclose a brand endorsement deal. While the organization only penalized the influencers that also owned the brand at the center of the campaign, the settlement serves as notice to other influencers that the FTC is no longer only holding brands and the companies representing influencers responsible for not following its disclosure guidelines, according to several experts that specialize in advertising and marketing law.

“In the past, they went after [brands such as] Lord and Taylor, Sony, Warner Bros. and Machinima. This is the first time that they’ve gone beyond that in the food chain and basically said that the influencers could be held responsible,” said Linda Goldstein, a partner at law firm BakerHostetler. She had represented Machinima when the digital video network settled deceptive advertising charges with the FTC in 2015 after several YouTube stars hired by Machinima to promote Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming console failed to disclose that the videos were sponsored.

As further evidence of its broadened scope, the FTC sent letters to 21 influencers regarding Instagram posts that appeared to endorse a brand but insufficiently communicated any business relationship between the brand and the influencer. The FTC had previously sent letters to these influencers earlier this year to educate them on the need to follow the FTC’s endorsement guidelines when publishing branded posts on social networks.

The FTC’s latest warnings

Those 21 warning letters and more than 90 educational letters also provide insight into the specific language and placement of disclosures that the FTC has in its crosshairs as insufficient and may eventually take action against. In particular, the FTC reiterates that simply thanking a brand “is probably inadequate” and that disclosures made in a post’s caption should appear within the first few lines of the caption, as opposed to requiring people to click “more” to see it hidden below the fold.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the FTC lays out the groundwork with these educational letters and these warning letters and then further on down the line, once they can say ‘We’ve established this baseline and everyone should be aware of it,’ then I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing some actions,” said Gonzalo Mon, a partner at law firm Kelley Drye who specializes in advertising and marketing law.

“The FTC does show what it’s going to do with its warning letters,” said Allison Fitzpatrick, a partner in law firm Davis & Gilbert’s advertising, marketing, and promotions practice group. For example, in 2009, the FTC updated its endorsement guidelines for the first time in 29 years to take into account endorsements made by bloggers. A little more than six months later, the regulator closed its first investigation of blogger-brand endorsement deals by issuing a warning letter to Ann Taylor but deciding not to fine the brand.

Platforms’ disclosure tools ‘not necessarily’ sufficient

Coinciding with the FTC’s latest warnings, the commission has updated the FAQ-style explainer of its endorsement guidelines. Among the more notable additions are the mention of Snapchat’s and Instagram’s ephemeral Stories features — that may disappear after 24 hours but are not lost on the FTC as distribution outlets for branded content — as well as the FTC addressing platform-provided tools that seek to standardize branded-content disclosures. These tools may have offered comfort to brands concerned over how their influencers should properly disclose an endorsement on a platform like Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, but the FTC had not come out and endorsed these tools itself. And it still has not.

A new question added to the FTC’s explainer asks whether platforms’ built-in disclosure tools suffice in meeting the regulator’s standard. “Not necessarily,” according to the FTC. Without naming names, the FTC proceeds to describe two platform-provided disclosure tools that sound similar to Instagram’s and YouTube’s:

For example, on a photo platform, users paging through their streams will likely look at the eye-catching images. Therefore, a disclosure placed above a photo may not attract their attention. Similarly, a disclosure in the lower corner of a video could be too easy for users to overlook.

Earlier this year, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and originated as a photo platform, began testing a tool for influencers to attach a “Paid promotion with [brand name]” label above their posts; Facebook rolled out a similar branded-content labeling tool last year for posts appearing in people’s photo-and-video-dominant news feeds. Also last year, Google’s YouTube introduced a tool for creators to have the text “Includes paid promotion” appear in the lower corner during the first 10 seconds of a video.

“We believe ‘Paid partnership with’ clearly describes when creators and their business partners have entered into a commercial relationship to post on Instagram. We have worked with industry groups and consumer advocates and will continue to engage with external groups to improve and refine our tools. We want this tool to offer greater transparency for the Instagram community and present a consistent look and feel for branded content on the platform, which is good for every Instagrammer,” said an Instagram spokesperson in an emailed statement.

In response to a request for comment, a YouTube spokesperson cited its policies informing creators that they are responsible for complying with local laws, regulations and its own guidelines.

Facebook did not respond to questions sent on Tuesday asking whether the company had discussed the adequacy of its tool with the FTC and whether it plans to make any changes to the tool to make it more clearly sufficient in light of the updated document.

Lack of approval does not equal disapproval

The FTC appears to be hedging, likely frustrating marketers. However, while it’s not offering these tools a seal of approval, it is unlikely to take action anytime soon against brands and influencers that use these tools to make their disclosures, according to legal experts. More likely the FTC is emphasizing that brands cannot be too careful and influencers cannot be too explicit when it comes to communicating an endorsement.

“These tools aren’t completely baked yet. The FTC is not going to bless something that hasn’t been completely rolled out,” said Mon.

The FTC “is intentionally being vague, but it can be interpreted as at least telling marketers’ influencers not to rely on the [tools provided by the] platform,” said Fitzpatrick.

But that doesn’t mean that brands and influencers that have used these tools to make disclosures in the past should fear an impending letter from the FTC.

“Typically, the FTC will go after the most egregious violators. So I don’t think that they want to get into an issue and potentially a litigated issue where someone is embracing a widely used industry standard, has a disclosure that may be pretty damn good but from the FTC’s perspective could be more clear and conspicuous,” said Adam Solomon, a partner at law firm Michelman & Robinson, LLP, who focuses on advertising, digital marketing, promotions and compliance.

Instead of the regulator “rushing out to penalize or bring action against any brand that believes it is making sufficient disclosures with the tools Instagram gave them,” Fitzpatrick said it’s likely that the FTC will use the updated document to undergird discussions with the platforms about how to make their tools’ labels more sufficient and to underscore to brands the need for clearer disclosures and more active involvement in ensuring those disclosures are made.

How brands should respond

All of the legal experts interviewed for this article asserted that the more active a brand is in taking responsibility over the influencers it hires to ensure they make the proper disclosures, the more forgiving the FTC will be when evaluating any examples that run afoul of its guidelines.

“The FTC does give consideration to what they call ‘mitigating factors.’ In this post-Machinima world, what’s most important to the commission is whether a brand actually has proper procedures in place to monitor for compliance,” said Goldstein.

Joseph Lewczak, a partner at Davis & Gilbert, prescribed in an email the actions marketers should take following the FTC’s most recent moves: “The main takeaways from these most recent actions are the same takeaways that I’ve been talking to my clients about for years:”

  1. Have a contract with your influencers that requires disclosure.
  2. Train influencers on expected disclosures. Better yet, provide the disclosures you want influencers using and ensure it’s easily understood and posted in a clear and conspicuous manner.
  3. Monitor what your influencers are doing.
  4. Correct failures to disclose or terminate influencers who are not compliant.

 

Author: Tim Peterson

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Google Chrome will turn off autoplay videos with sound to improve your browsing experience

chromeIMAGE: PHOTOTHEK VIA GETTY IMAGES.
It’s not a secret that nowadays our browsing experience can be extremely frustrating due to those autoplay videos which suddenly pop up on the page and don’t want to go away, even if you try to scroll down.

The worst part of the experience, perhaps, is the audio. You’re listening to your Spotify list when the sound of an explosion from a random Hollywood disaster movie bursts into your ears, and you have to frenetically chase the Chrome tab responsible for the noise.

In order to at least partly solve the autoplay video problem, and make Chrome more user-friendly, Google wants to give control over audio back to users.

From January 2018, with Chrome 64, autoplay will work only when either there’s no sound in the video or the user has shown interest in the clip.

“This will allow autoplay to occur when users want media to play, and respect users’ wishes when they don’t,” Google’s Software Engineer Mounir Lamouri said in a blog post.

“These changes will also unify desktop and mobile web behavior, making web media development more predictable across platforms and browsers.”

In addition, Chrome 63 will have a new option for users to “completely disable audio for individual sites”.

“This site muting option will persist between browsing sessions, allowing users to customize when and where audio will play,” Google said.

“These changes will give users greater control over media playing in their browser while making it easier for publishers to implement autoplay where it benefits the user.”

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How to Successfully Build a Content Marketing Strategy

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In the modern day, brand success entirely depends on content marketing. For this reason, brands are competing hard to come up with a better content marketing strategy that will boost their brand reputation, improve on SEO and guarantee effective social media presence.

Getting entry into this field is so simple that it only needs you to marshal some original ideas and executing them in the most decent way possible. However, you need to come to terms with the fact that you need the right strategy and a good one in that case, for you to be successful. According to Susan Friesen, Web Development Specialist/Business & Marketing Consultant, online business is all about dealing with strangers who need to know whether we understand their problem, they can trust us and if the solutions we offer can help solve their problems before they even think of doing business with us.

In simple terms, that is how crucial content marketing is in the growth of the business through increased web traffic, the growth of mailing list and increased sales just to mention but a few.

Why do you need a formal strategy?

You may have the whims and writing capabilities but trust me, these are not enough to guarantee you the success you need. Whether you are a start up with your content marketing or have been using the same strategies for some time, you need to take your game a notch higher than ever before.

Don’t forget, there is more competition coming up every single day- according to Content Marketing Institute, more organizations have recorded more content marketing than ever before. This is, of course, projected to go on and on into the future. From the research carried out by the Institute, organizations that are further along with their approach are the most successful. This opens up the fight for the top position and for that case competition likely to come in.

The strategy is very critical in content marketing to ensure that you focus on the right direction and target. Remember that you are not writing for everybody but rather a specific target niche which demands that you undertake an extensive market research to find out the most appropriate target.

Another reason why strategy is very important is to ensure you get accurate measurement and analysis. The strategy lays the ground by which you can measure your success and carrying out the right comparisons and analysis. The strategy, therefore, guides you into setting goals that you will focus on in a particular period of time.

Finally, a formal strategy is essential to help you in the consistent execution of responsibilities amongst involved parties.

The following are some of the best high-level steps that can guarantee you success in your new content. These are effective steps that have been tested by many content marketers and worked at awesomely.

1. Market research

This is the most crucial step before you even think of writing your strategy. Market research is key in your content marketing because you get a chance to learn more about your target audience and what they expect from you. In your market research, you need to answer a number of questions like what your target audience’s needs are, what they are looking for, what problems they need to be solved and what their disposition is when they come across the content you share among others.

You will have answers to these questions by taking surveys and keenly monitoring social activities taking place in the digital industry.

2. Competitive research

Besides knowing who your target customers are, you also need to find out your competitors and learn how best you can compete favorably even with the giants in the industry. You need to learn your competitors’ content marketing tricks and trying to seal loopholes through which they can successfully pursue your demographics by strongly guarding your strengths. Of course, you also need to take advantage of any opportunity they are neglecting so that you stay ahead in the game all the way.

3. Set goals

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Having successfully undertaken effective market and competitive research, it is time you set your content marketing strategy goals. The goals should be more focused on other things besides mere “success”. You may as well set such goals as improving on conversions or increasing traffic and attracting new customers among many others.

You can actually have as many goals as you wish provided you focus your energies on achieving each and every single goal you set.

4. Budget-setting

Content market demands a share of your budget and you need to put this in mind. Having set the main goals for your content marketing strategy, you need to set a budget that will enable you to achieve them.  At this step, all you need is to set goals that match with the budget you have set aside for sponsored blog posts. Do not overstretch your budget.

5. Budget distribution and allocation of resources in order or priorities

Let the biggest priorities take a fair share of the budget so that your main goals can be achieved faster and more effectively. On the same note, you need to find the right professional content writer to help you with creating the relevant content you need in case you are not in a position to deliver the task on your own. You thus need to figure out who should lead your content marketing for better results

You need to clarify responsibilities so that you can effectively distribute your budget without experiencing deficits before the set goals are achieved.

6. Ensure maximum accountability across the board for your content marketing strategy

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You need to measure progress periodically so that you can tell the direction your strategy is taking. You need specific individuals to be responsible for executing various items in your strategy. This way, you will be able to ask the right individuals questions when things don’t come along as planned or expected.

Conclusion

Content marketing strategy is not just a one-moment affair your can sit down and draft in the afternoon. It is more than what many people take it to be of the face value. You need to take your time, dig deep into every step described above and lay out a foundation on how to go about each step. Carry out an extensive research and gather effective tactics and tricks that you can be sure are right and effective in enhancing the success of your brand.

You always need to stay focused and strong no matter the turbulence you face on your way. It takes a lot to successfully build a content marketing strategy that will bring forth expected results as soon as possible.

Author:  Irene fatyanova

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No one is using Facebook stories, so Facebook is borrowing Instagram’s – Post your story to both places at once.

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Facebook has apparently found a new approach to giving its Stories feature a much-needed shot in the arm: soon you’ll be able to just double-post your Instagram stories to Facebook directly from the Instagram app. As Mashable reports, some Instagram users are already seeing an option to simultaneously share their image or video story to Facebook just before uploading to Instagram.

In Facebook, they’ll appear in the Stories section as though you’d actually created them there, but you’ll know that those stories actually originated from Instagram because they’re denoted with an “Instagram” label beneath the user’s name.

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This whole experiment sounds rather desperate and sad, but it also shows how badly Facebook has so far failed at making Stories a success within the company’s principal app.

If you’re like me, the Stories row at the top of Facebook’s mobile app is probably a barren desert of zero activity. None of my friends and family are using the feature. No one posts anything. It’s just a series of grayed out profile photo circles.

There’s nothing to see here. There never is.
Stories have caught fire across Snapchat and Instagram. I probably post something to my Instagram story at least once a day. But Facebook’s attempt to integrate them into its core app has completely bombed (despite prominent placement) and just isn’t clicking with users. The company has added new features and confirmed that stories are coming to the desktop, but nothing so far has worked.

In that way, turning to Instagram Stories, which is used by 250 million people daily, to fix its own engagement problem shows that Facebook is already hitting a point of despair. Yes, you can already publish content that you post to your main Instagram feed to multiple other social networks, but if Stories had taken off like Facebook really wanted, this fallback probably wouldn’t have been needed. It’s also the most blatant example of Instagram adding a feature expressly for Facebook’s benefit in a long time; from a user-facing perspective, Instagram has done an admirable job keeping a line of separation with its parent company.

This is just a test for now so it might turn out that Instagram doesn’t roll out the ability to export stories to Facebook for everyone. But the lucrative advertising opportunity that stories present is too good for Facebook to just say “well, maybe people don’t want this feature in every app” and accept failure. The company is going to keep trying and trying until something lights the spark.

Author: Chris Welch

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How To Use Facebook Cover Videos on Your Brand’s Page

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Facebook has rolled out yet another new feature – Cover Videos.
Cover Videos, like their still counterparts, Cover Photos, create a valuable venue for your brand to showcase its unique identity and promote your message. However, videos create a much stronger impact and result in more engagement than images and other forms of content.

As we fleshed out in previous blog post, now it is more crucial than ever for brands to start incorporating videos into their content marketing and social strategies. Facebook Cover Videos provide yet another space for brands to do this. Here is how to use them strategically to get the most of your 20-90 seconds.

1. SETTING YOUR COVER VIDEO

Simply click-over the Change Cover icon and select whether you want to Choose from Videos or Upload a new file from your computer. Facebook suggests you keep it within 820 x 312 pixels. Eligible videos are between 20-90 seconds and will pause after the first play. If you want it to be shorter or repeat automatically, just make your video a loop before you upload.

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2. MAKE SURE YOUR FACEBOOK COVER VIDEO ACTUALLY WORKS

First and foremost, you need to make sure the video plays on your Facebook page. Sorry if this sounds too obvious, but it is so important to double-check the functionality when a feature is new or in beta. Even giants like Facebook are not immune to mistakes. Cover Videos were only released in late April of this year, so they are still working out some kinks. Lots of brands have been experiencing issues with the playback, even as late as in August, so always keep your eye out for errors.

3. CHOOSE A COVER VIDEO THAT COMMUNICATES YOUR BRAND’S MESSAGE

Your Cover Video is meant to help your business tell more of its story. But since you only get up to 90 seconds, keep it simple. Make it an anecdote, not a novel. Additionally, videos play without sound by default so make sure it’s strong enough to stand on its own.
If you can’t find a way to effectively communicate your brand’s message, then hold off on the cover video. Content is a matter of quality over quantity. Don’t choose a video for the sake of filling space; choose one that satisfies your marketing goals.

4. USE YOUR COVER VIDEO TO PROMOTE A CAMPAIGN

As the first thing a user sees on your Facebook profile, your cover photos sets the tone of your brand’s page. Use this to your advantage by rotating your cover videos according to specific campaigns. Videos play instantly as soon as a visitor enters your page, so they can’t miss it. A campaign specific video at the top of your page increases your reach and furthers your campaign goals. Changing the video regularly will also help keep returning users engaged.

5. TRACK YOUR RESULTS

We believe that the best marketers are data-addicted. You should always be tracking and reporting your page traffic and engagement metrics so you can learn from the results and optimize your strategy. Use the Facebook Page Insights to find out this information.

Ask yourself: how many views has my Cover Video Received? Have my Page Views increased or decreased since implementing? Did this result in more Page Likes or more Actions on Page? Are users Engaging more with other content from your page?
Adjust until you’ve found a video or strategy that works from a marketing standpoint.

NEED SOME HELP WITH YOUR BRAND’S SOCIAL STRATEGY? GET IN TOUCH WITH OUR TEAM FOR A FREE AUDIT and SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT PLANS. #Chicago #Jacksonville

Tridence – Social Media and Web Development

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International college soccer tournament coming to S.A. for next five years

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Photo: Justin Meyer / San Antonio Express-News

Local government and sports officials stand with World Collegiate Soccer Championship (WCSC) executives, during a press conference at San Antonio City Council chambers on Aug. 7, 2017, in San Antonio, Texas.

San Antonio will host the (WCSC) revival in March 2018, the first of five years the city has pledged to house the tournament, after a 26-year hiatus. The championship will include men’s teams from eight countries, with confirmed participation from Spain, Turkey, Switzerland, Japan, and Mexico. Invitations have been sent to Canada, the NAIA and NCAA. Eight teams ultimately will be chosen for the 2018 edition and be crowned champions hosting the Prof. Julio Mazzei Trophy.

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David Vega – Jacksonville Florida and Chicago Illinois hosting the Prof. Julio Mazzei Trophy

Comalander Stadium and Heroes Stadium will be the tournament’s venues, with Heroes hosting the final. Additionally, the stadiums will have the World Pre-Collegiate Soccer Championship Showcase and World Collegiate Club Championship Showcase, which San Antonio Sports expects to attract a total of more than 340 teams.

“We look forward to many years of partnering with San Antonio Sports and the city of San Antonio, as well as welcoming many visitors to the state of Texas,” said Robert Azar, executive director of the World Collegiate Soccer Championship, in a statement.

Visit San Antonio and the San Antonio Tourism Council were also involved in the effort to bring the championship event to the Alamo City. The 2018 matches will be part of the city’s official Tricentennial celebration.

The tournament is projected to produce more than $13 million in annual economic impact for the Greater San Antonio area, according to a study done by Steven R. Nivin Economic Research & Consulting.

Beyond the financial gains, president and CEO of San Antonio Sports Russ Bookbinder said “the WCSC will give the city another notch on its soccer resume, which will be crucial when the time comes for bigger Bids”, which may include future Bids for a possible MLS team and being part of the multi-country 2026 World Cup bid.

By: David Vega, Owner of Tridence & WCSC Social Media Director

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SAYING GOODBYE TO IPOD, THANKS FOR ALL THE TUNES

Today officially marks the end of Apple’s era of standalone music players. After nearly 16 years on the market, Apple quietly pulled the iPod Nano out of its virtual stores today.ipod1

The iPods were with a full generation of users like myself. Some could argue that the iPod killed the album, making playlists and the Shuffle Mode primary methods of listening. Not too mention, It definitely helped kill the paid-for music industry. Who can remember Apple first iPod commercial in (2001):

Aww, the memories. More likely, you’ll just stick with your phone, which represents the present and future of how you and we listen to music. So good bye my little nano as you meet the Walkman in the afterlife.

David Vega, Jacksonville, FL. | Chicago, IL.

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