Social promotions that require hashtags for entry into a contest or sweepstakes will have to get specific following the latest update to the FTC Endorsement Guides. The “What People Are Asking” page on the FTC website was updated last month to reflect changes to social promotional best practices. In regards tosocial media promotions with a contest or sweepstakes component, a promotional hashtag containing the brand name won’t be enough for compliance. The FTC’s response:
“No. It’s likely that many readers would not understand such a hashtag to mean that those posts were made as part of a contest or that the people doing the posting had received something of value (in this case, a chance to win the contest prize). Making the word “contest” or “sweepstakes” part of the hashtag should be enough. However, the word “sweeps” probably isn’t, because it is likely that many people would not understand what that means.”
Many social campaigns have designated hashtags built into the promotion strategy with few containing the words sweepstakes, contest, promotion, campaign, etc. Any agency, company or endorser is now required by the FTC to disclose any material connection to the brand before mentioning a contest, sweepstakes or promotion. Moving forward, compliant sweepstakes and contest hashtags will likely be #SocialCampaignNameSweepstakes or #SocialCampaignName #Sweepstakes/#Contest.
The FTC Endorsement Guides reflect the truth-in-advertising principal that advertisements should be honest, transparent and not misleading. Now that social media campaigns are proven to be lucrative and far-reaching, best practices are evolving into legitimate rules for marketers to consider in campaign planning.